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Title: Great Porter Square, v. 3 - A Mystery.
Author: Farjeon, Benjamin Leopold
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Great Porter Square, v. 3 - A Mystery." ***

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  GREAT PORTER SQUARE:
  A MYSTERY.

  BY
  B. L. FARJEON,
  _Author of "Grif," "London's Heart," "The House of White
  Shadows," etc._

  _IN THREE VOLUMES._
  VOLUME III.

  LONDON:
  WARD AND DOWNEY,
  12, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN.
  1885.
  [ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.]



  PRINTED BY
  KELLY AND CO., GATE STREET, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS
  AND KINGSTON-ON-THAMES.



CONTENTS.


   CHAP.                                                        PAGE
     XXXI.--Becky gives a description of an interview between
             herself and Richard Manx                              1

    XXXII.--In which Becky narrates how Fanny became acquainted
             with Mrs. Lydia Holdfast                             15

   XXXIII.--In which Becky narrates how Fanny became
             acquainted with Mrs. Lydia Holdfast (concluded)      24

    XXXIV.--Mr. Pelham makes his appearance once more             31

     XXXV.--Fanny discovers who Richard Manx is                   45

    XXXVI.--Becky and Fanny on the watch                          55

   XXXVII.--No. 119 Great Porter Square is let to a new Tenant    71

  XXXVIII.--The new Tenant takes possession of No. 119 Great
             Porter Square                                        87

    XXXIX.--Mrs. Holdfast insists on becoming an active partner  113

       XL.--Mrs. Holdfast insists on becoming an active partner
             (concluded)                                         118

      XLI.--Frederick Holdfast makes the discovery               134

     XLII.--Mr. Holdfast's Diary                                 147

    XLIII.--Mr. Holdfast's Diary (concluded)                     177

     XLIV.--Caged                                                207

      XLV.--Retribution                                          218

     XLVI.--In which the "Evening Moon" gives a Sequel to its
             "Romance in Real Life"                              224



GREAT PORTER SQUARE: A MYSTERY.



CHAPTER XXXI.

BECKY GIVES A DESCRIPTION OF AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN HERSELF AND RICHARD
MANX.


MY DEAREST LOVE--How, did you like my little messenger, Fanny? Is she
not steady, and bright, and clever? When she woke this morning I had an
earnest conversation with her, and as far as was necessary I told her my
plans and that I wanted her faithful assistance. She cried for joy. The
few words she managed to get out convinced me that, child as she is,
I could not be better served by a grown-up person. Besides, I want a
child to assist me; a grown-up person might spoil my plans. In what way?
Patience, my dear, patience.

Mrs. Preedy noticed that I looked tired, and I told her that I had been
kept awake all the night with toothache. She expressed great sympathy
with me. It is wonderful the position I hold in the house; I am treated
more like a lady than a servant. That is because I have lent my mistress
forty pounds, and have agreed to pay for little Fanny's board and
lodging. Mrs. Preedy threw out a hint about taking me into partnership,
if I would invest my fancied legacy into the business.

"We could keep on this house," she said, "and take another on the other
side of the Square."

I said it was worth thinking about, but that, of course, I could do
nothing until I received the whole amount of the legacy which would be
in three weeks' time. So the matter rests; during these three weeks Mrs.
Preedy will be very gracious to me, I expect. She said this morning,
when I told her about my toothache,

"You had better lay down, my dear."

Actually! "My dear!"

I did lie down, and I had a good rest, so that my keeping up all night
did not hurt me. I feel now quite refreshed, although it is night, and
eleven o'clock. Mrs. Preedy, as usual, is out gossiping with Mrs. Beale,
and I am writing in the kitchen. When she comes home I shall continue my
letter in my bedroom. I have much to tell you. Things seem to move on
rapidly. I have no doubt that in a very short time something important
will come to light.

After sending Fanny to you this morning, I went up to our bedridden
lady-lodger, Mrs. Bailey. From her I obtained some significant news.
She had passed a bad night; the noise in the next house, as of some one
moving about in the room in which your father met his death, had "come
again," she said, and had continued for at least a couple of hours. She
declared that it did not sound like mice, and that she did not know
really what to think. What she _did_ know was that she was almost
frightened out of her life. I suggested that Fanny should sleep in her
room for a night or two, and I told her about the little girl. "It
will be company for you," I said. The old lady was delighted at the
suggestion, and with the consent of Mrs. Preedy, I made up a bed for
Fanny on the floor, close to the wall, and she is sleeping there now.
I am satisfied she is asleep, because Richard Manx is not in the house.
I have confided in Fanny, and she is so devoted to my service that I
am certain, while she is in her bed, no sound can be made in the room
adjoining without her hearing it. Her faculties have been sharpened by
a life of want, and her nature is a very grateful one.

It was not without reflection that I have taken advantage of the
opportunity to change Fanny's bedroom. It will afford me a better excuse
for going upstairs more frequently than usual, and thus keeping a watch
on the movements of our young man lodger. It will also give Fanny an
opportunity of watching him, for I intend employing her in this way,
and in watching another person, too. Richard Manx has not seen my
little detective yet, nor shall he see her, if it can be prevented. My
instructions to Fanny are to keep herself carefully out of his sight; it
is part of a plan, as yet half formed, that she should be very familiar
with his face, and he not at all familiar with hers. Twice during the
day has she seen him, without being seen, and this evening she gave me
a description of his personal appearance so faithful as to be really
startling. Slight peculiarities in him which had escaped my notice
have not escaped Fanny's; she has found out even that he wears a wig,
and that he paints his face. This poor little child is going to be
invaluable to me. If all goes well with us we must take care of her.
Indeed, I have promised as much.

Now let me tell you what else I have done, and what has occurred. In
the note you sent back by Fanny this morning, you express anxiety
concerning me with reference to Richard Manx. Well, my dear, I intend
to take great care of myself, and in the afternoon I went out shopping
accompanied by Fanny. I paid a visit, being a woman, to a milliner and
dressmaker, and bought some clothes. For myself? No, for Fanny, and with
them a waterproof to cover her dress completely, from top to toe. Then I
made my way to a wig shop in Bow Street, and bought a wig. For myself?
No--again for Fanny. And, after that, where do you think I went? To a
gunsmith, of all places in the world. There I bought a revolver--the
tiniest, dearest little pistol, which I can hold in the palm of my hand
without anyone but myself being the wiser. I learnt how to put in the
cartridges. It is very easy. With that in my pocket, I feel almost as
safe as if you were by my side. Do not be troubled about this, and do
not think I am in any danger. I am perfectly safe, and no harm will
befall me. Of course, there is only one person to whom it might happen
I would show my pretty little pistol--to Richard Manx. And I am
convinced that the merest glimpse of it would be enough for him. You can
tell by looking into a man's face and eyes whether he is brave as well
as bold, and I am satisfied that Richard Manx is a coward.

I saw him this evening. I have not yet had an opportunity to tell you
that he endeavoured to make himself very agreeable to me three days
ago, when he met me, as I was returning to Great Porter Square from the
post-office. He promised to make me a present of some acid drops, of
which he seems to be very fond. He did not keep his word until this
evening, when he presented me with a sweet little packet, which I
put into the fire when I was alone. He spoke of his property and his
expectations.

"I wish," said he, as he offered me the sweets, "that this paper was
filled with diamonds; it would be--a--more agreeable. But I am poor,
miserably poor--as yet. It will be one day that I shall be rich--then
shall I present myself to you, and offer to you what I better wish."

"Why should you do so?" I asked. "You are a gentleman, although you have
no money----"

"Ah, yes," he said, interrupting me, and placing his hand on his heart,
"I am a gentleman. I thank you."

"And," I continued, "I am so much beneath you."

"Never," he said, energetically; "I have said to you before, you are a
lady. Think you I do not know a lady when she presents herself? It is
not station--it is not birth--it is not rank. It is manner. On my honour
I say it--you are a lady."

I gave him a sharp look, doubtful for a moment whether he was in
earnest; but the false ring in his false voice should of itself have
convinced me that he was as insincere as it was possible for any human
being to be.

"It is," he said, with a wave of his hand towards the Square, "still
excitement. People still come to look and see. What do they expect?"

"I suppose," I said, "it is because of that wonderful account in the
newspaper about the poor gentleman who was murdered. Did you read it?"

"Did I read it!" he echoed. "I was the first. It is what you
say--wonderful. What think you of the lady with the pretty name--I
forget it--remind me of it."

"Lydia," I said.

"Ah, yes, Lydia. It is a pretty name--remarkable." ("Then," thought I,
following his words and manner with close attention, "if you think the
name so pretty and remarkable, how comes it that you forget it so soon?"
But I did not say this aloud.) "What think you of her?"

"I think she is to be pitied," I said; "it was a dreadful story she told
the reporter. It is like a romance."

"A romance," he said, "is something that is not true?"

"It _must_ be true," I said. "Do you suppose any person--especially a
lady, as Mrs. Holdfast is--could possibly say what is not true, in such
a position as hers?"

"It is not--a--possible," he replied. "You are right. What say the
people? As you say?"

"They can say nothing else. What object could she have to serve in
speaking anything but the truth? Her husband is dead; that wicked young
man--what was his name?" I asked, serving him in his own coin.

"Frederick," he said, quickly.

"That wicked young man, Frederick, is dead, and she is left alone, a
rich widow. Money is very nice. I should like to have as much. I think
it would almost console me for the loss of a husband--especially a
husband much older than myself."

Forgive me, my dear, for speaking in this way, but to say honestly to a
man like Richard Manx what is in one's mind would not be wise.

He smiled at my words.

"It may be," he said, "that Madame Lydia thinks as you. But you would
not have been so--what do you call it? indiscreet?--yes, that word
will do--you would not have been so indiscreet as to say to a gentleman
of the press as much as she said. It was too candid--there was
no--a--necessity. Why proclaim it?"

"Why not proclaim it?" I asked, "It may assist justice."

"Assist what?"

"Justice," I replied. "What is that unfortunate lady's first and most
earnest desire? To discover the murderer of her husband, and to make him
pay the penalty of his crime. It would be mine. I would even go to see
the monster hanged."

"It is the proper word. Monster--yes, he is, he must be. But you
could never--no never! You are too soft--that is, tender. Who is the
monster? If you it were who was wronged, I am he who would find him.
But this Madame Lydia, she is to me nothing. What say you? Can you
suspect? In this Great Porter Square can anyone suspect? Our amiable
lady of No. 119--Mrs. Preedy--even she cannot say. Ah, but it is
dark--mysterious. Yet I have a thought--it is here." He tapped his
forehead. "Shall I speak it?"

"Yes."

"Bah! Why? It is not to me an interest. But if you wish so much to hear!
Ah! well--my thought is this. The son, the wicked young man, Frederick,
he is, they say, dead. But if he be not dead? What then? The monster,
he--in secret to kill the father he betrayed!"

I turned my face from him, for I felt that it had grown suddenly white.
My heart beat violently. Swiftly to my mind rushed the thought of your
deadly peril. There came to me, in one clear, convincing flash, what,
under other circumstances, would have taken me hours to work out. Think
for yourself--consider calmly the circumstantial force of all that has
passed--and you will see, as I see, how easy it would be to construct a
chain of evidence against you from which it is scarcely possible you
could escape.

"You are agitated," said Richard Manx. "You turn from me. Why?"

In an instant I recovered my self-possession. I turned my face to him,
and it seemed to me as if I had forced colour into it.

"The thought is so horrible," I said. "That a son should kill his father
in cold blood! I cannot bear to contemplate it. What wickedness there is
in the world!"

"It is so," said Richard Manx, with a smile, as though we were
conversing on a pleasant subject. "Then what shall a man do? Live
well--eat well--drink well--sleep well. There is a reason. The world is
wicked. I cannot alter it. You cannot alter it. A lesson comes. Enjoy.
Must you go? Must you leave me? I kiss your hand. No? In my fancy, then.
Till again, fair Becky, adieu."

Our conversation was at an end, and I was thankful. I have been
particular in my endeavour to show you the man, from his words and
manner of speech. Good-night, my dearest. In my own mind I am satisfied
that this day has not been wasted. It leads to days more important to
you and to your ever devoted.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XXXII.

IN WHICH BECKY NARRATES HOW FANNY BECAME ACQUAINTED WITH MRS. LYDIA
HOLDFAST.


MY DEAR LOVE,--Again I beg of you, in reply to your expressions of
anxiety in the letter Fanny brought to me this morning, not to give
yourself unnecessary anxiety about me. You are alarmed at the position
in which I have placed myself; you are alarmed because Richard Manx
is in the same house with me; you are alarmed because I have bought
a revolver. I assure you there is no reason why you should be so
distressed. The position in which I have placed myself is, I am more
than ever convinced, the only one which will enable me to reach the
heart of this mystery. Richard Manx is but one person against many.
I, and Mrs. Preedy, and Fanny, and the neighbours, and the policeman,
with whom I am on friendly terms, are surely more than a match for
him. You are alarmed because I have in my possession a toy pistol.
Is not a woman, in an emergency, to be trusted with a weapon? In such
circumstances as ours, why should not a woman have as much courage as a
man? Why should not a woman undertake a task such as I have undertaken,
when her heart is engaged in it, when the honour and safety of the man
she loves are engaged in it, when the whole happiness of her life and
his is engaged in it? That would be like saying that women are fit for
nothing in the world but to wait upon men's actions and to follow them,
whichever way they lead. It is not so. In such a crisis as this a woman
can do, and do better, what it would be out of the power of a man to
accomplish. I would willingly relinquish my task if I thought it could
be accomplished without my aid. But it cannot be. You are powerless;
there is no one but myself capable and willing to carry it out; and
indeed, indeed, I am in no danger! My dear, you underrate our sex. Read
this letter carefully, and then confess that your fears are groundless,
and that I am doing what is right and best to be done.

Fanny heard nothing last night. There was no sound in the next house.
For a reason. Richard Manx was not in his room, and did not make his
appearance until this afternoon. Then I remembered that last week, on
the same day, it was the same. There is one night in the week, then,
in which he has business elsewhere. I shall take advantage of that
discovery.

When Fanny returned with your letter this morning, I prepared for a
masterstroke. Its success depended much upon chance, much upon Fanny's
shrewdness. I cut her hair short, and fitted the wig I bought yesterday
on her head. It is a wig of fair hair, with long curls. She looks lovely
in it. When night fell, I dressed her in her new clothes, which were not
new, but second-hand; and, covered with the waterproof, there she was,
ready for her task.

My desire was that she should manage to become acquainted with Mrs.
Lydia Holdfast, and so ingratiate herself with that person as to be able
to bring me reports of her movements and proceedings. Having impressed
this upon her, I asked her whether she would undertake the task. Her
answer was that she would go through fire and water to serve me;
that she knew exactly what I wanted, and was going to do it. I was
so satisfied with her readiness that it was with a feeling of great
confidence I sent her on her mission. I waited for my opportunity, and
no one saw her leave the house. Whether what I called my masterstroke
will really turn out to be one will be proved in a very short time.
Something has already been achieved. Fanny has become acquainted with
Mrs. Lydia Holdfast.

She returned an hour ago, and is now abed in old Mrs. Bailey's room.
Exactly at ten o'clock I went into the Square, and found Fanny waiting
for me. I whipped off her wig, and brought her home. The nights are
dark, and there is little fear of detection; and even in that case I
have an amusing story ready, which will easily account for what will
look like a harmless freak.

When she left Great Porter Square, Fanny went at once to the house in
which your father lived, and which his widow still inhabits. She waited
outside for a long time until at length a lady came out whom, from
my description of her, Fanny recognised to be Mrs. Lydia Holdfast. A
carriage was at the door, and as Mrs. Holdfast stepped towards it, Fanny
pulled her dress. Mrs. Holdfast snatched her dress away impatiently,
without speaking, and walked to her carriage, Fanny following her.

"If you please, ma'am," said Fanny.

"What do you want? What do you want?" cried Mrs. Holdfast.

"I want to speak to you," said Fanny.

"Well, speak!" exclaimed Mrs. Holdfast. "Don't you see I'm in a hurry?"

A coachman stood at the carriage door to wait upon his mistress.

"I want to speak to you alone, please," said Fanny.

"You can't," cried Mrs. Holdfast. "Take this beggar-girl away."

The coachman endeavoured to obey the order, but little Fanny was too
quick for him. She slipped between his arms, and again stood by the side
of Mrs. Holdfast.

"Ain't you Mrs. Holdfast?" she asked, looking up into the lady's face.

"Yes," was the reply.

"Mrs. Grace Holdfast," said Fanny, as bold as brass. I think it would be
difficult to find her equal.

Mrs. Holdfast, as she heard this name, Grace, which Fanny spoke loudly,
gave a scream, and seizing Fanny by the arm, hurried back with her into
the house. There were servants standing about, but Mrs. Holdfast took no
notice of them; she put her hand on Fanny's lips, and dragged her into
an empty room. Closing the door, and locking it, she bent down to Fanny
and shook her roughly.

Fanny did not speak or scream, but twisted herself as soon as she could
from Mrs. Holdfast's grip, and said,

"There! You have made my wig all crooked."

Heaven only knows where this child got her wits from, but if she had
been drilled for a month she could not have acted the spirit of her part
with greater cleverness. The words I did not teach her; I simply told
her what I wanted her to do, and left the rest to herself.

"There!" she cried. "You have made my wig all crooked."

And she ran to the looking-glass and set it straight again. There must
have been something in her manner which made Mrs. Holdfast laugh, but as
Fanny described it, her laugh was broken off in the middle.

"Come here directly," said Mrs. Holdfast.

Fanny obeyed. Mrs. Holdfast knelt upon the ground, and, holding Fanny's
face between her hands, looked long and hard at her.

"I don't know you," she said; and then she coloured up, for she saw that
Fanny was returning the earnest gaze.

"If you please, my lady," said Fanny, "I beg your pardon for calling you
Grace; my sister said you wouldn't like it, but you were running away,
and I couldn't help it."

"Who is your sister?" asked Mrs. Holdfast.

And now imagine Fanny, instead of at once answering the question,
fainting dead away. A real swoon? Not a bit of it. A sham, to gain time
to study the ground of action.

Mrs. Holdfast, at first, did not appear to know what to do. She allowed
Fanny to lie on the ground, and although the child's eyes were nearly
quite closed, she declares that not a movement nor an expression of
Mrs. Holdfast escaped her. I am entirely inclined to believe every
word spoken by Fanny as she related the adventure. She says that Mrs.
Holdfast looked at her for a moment, then turned away for a moment, then
looked at her again, as though wishing that she was dead. Upon which
Fanny gave a sigh, and murmured something about being faint and hungry.

Mrs. Holdfast rang a bell, and going to the door, unlocked it, and spoke
to a servant, from whom she received a decanter of wine. She locked the
door again, and returning to Fanny, raised the child's head, and put the
decanter to her lips. Fanny allowed herself gradually to recover, and
presently opened her eyes, and struggled to her feet.

"Now," repeated Mrs. Holdfast, "who is your sister, and what has brought
you here?"

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XXXIII.

IN WHICH BECKY NARRATES HOW FANNY BECAME ACQUAINTED WITH MRS. LYDIA
HOLDFAST.


By this time Fanny had invented a cunning little story.

"If you please, my lady," she replied, "my sister is an actress, and
I've come here to ask you to help me."

"But you don't know me; you've never spoken to me before," said Mrs.
Holdfast.

"I've never spoken to you," said Fanny, "but I remember you well. You
used to go to the theatre in the country, where Nelly was engaged.
That's the reason she sent me to you."

"Is Nelly your sister?"

"Yes, my lady. She was in the front row, and I used to come on in the
crowd. I got a shilling a night, and Nelly had a pound a week. We lived
near you in Oxford, and often saw you pass. Nelly was always talking of
you, and saying how beautiful you were, and what a lady, and how lucky
to have such swell friends. She used to wish she was like you, and when
you went away she wondered where you had gone to. Well, things got bad,
and Nelly and I came to London a month ago; and now she has left me, and
I don't know what I am to do."

"Why didn't your sister take you with her?" asked Mrs. Holdfast.

"She could tell you; I can't, except that she said two's company and
three's none. She said yesterday morning, 'I'm off, Dot; I can't stand
this any longer. No engagement and no money. You must look after
yourself, Dot. I tell you what to do if you're hard up. You go to this
address'--(and she gave me the address of your house)--'and ask for Mrs.
Holdfast. Don't say Grace Holdfast--she mightn't like it--and say I knew
her in Oxford, and ask her to help you. She'll do it. She's got a kind
heart, and knows what it is to be unfortunate.' Well, that's all--except
that in the afternoon a gentleman came, and asked for Nelly. She goes
down to him, and I hear what they say. It ain't much. 'Are you ready?'
the gentleman asks. 'Oh, yes,' says Nelly, in a kind of saucy way, 'I'm
ready enough.' Then Nelly asked him for some money, and he gave her a
sovereign. She runs up to me, whips on her hat, kneels down, kisses me,
puts the sovereign in my hand, and says, 'Good-bye, Dot, I can't help
leaving you; what's the use of stopping here to starve? Get away from
this house as soon as you can, for there's rent owing that I can't pay.
Mrs. Holdfast will give you a lift if you want one.' She kisses me
quick, over and over again, and runs down stairs, and out of the house.
Well, I'm crying and the landlady comes in and asks, sharp, where Nelly
has gone, and when I tell her, she flies into a passion, and says
there's three weeks' rent owing, besides other money. My hand is shut
tight, with the sovereign in it, and the landlady must have seen it
through my fingers, for she tries to force them open, but she can't till
she digs her knuckles into the back of my hand, when, of course, the
sovereign rolls out. 'Oh,' says the landlady, 'your sister's left this
on account. All right; I hope she'll pay the rest when she comes back.'
She pockets the sovereign, and this morning she turns me out of the
house, and tells me she has let the room. So I am obliged to go, and I
didn't know what else to do except to come to you."

I am not in a position to describe the exact effect this story, as
related by Fanny, produced upon Mrs. Holdfast. For my part, I was amazed
at the child's ingenuity. I doubt whether she could have invented
anything that would be likely better to serve our purpose. I am of
opinion that Mrs. Holdfast was both amused and frightened, and I think
she has some plan in her head with reference to Fanny. At all events,
she gave Fanny five shillings, and bade her come again to-morrow, in
the evening; and before Fanny left her, she made the child promise not
to mention to a soul in the world anything about ever having seen her
anywhere else but in London. Fanny promised, and left the house. To come
straight home to me? No. The cunning little creature waited outside Mrs.
Holdfast's house until the lady came out. She watched her get into her
carriage, and when it started she ran ahead of the horses until she was
out of breath. Then she called a cab, and paying the man out of her five
shillings, told him to follow the carriage. It stopped at the Criterion
Theatre, and Fanny, jumping from the cab, saw Mrs. Holdfast enter the
theatre.

That is all I have to tell you to-night. You may be assured that Mrs.
Holdfast does not feel any poignant grief at the loss of her husband.
Otherwise she would keep from theatres for a little while. The state of
widowhood is evidently one which gives her satisfaction. I wonder what
the Reporter of the newspaper who wrote the "Romance of Real Life,"
partly from her own lips, would say, if he saw Mrs. Holdfast laughing in
the theatre so shortly after the discovery of the murder of her husband.
Because the piece they are playing at the Criterion is taken from the
French, and is intended to make you laugh. All the actors and actresses
who play in it are comedians, and do their best to create fun. The
Reporter would put on his "Considering Cap," as the children's books
say. If she had gone to see a tragedy, where she could cry her eyes
out, she might have offered some excuse. But a laughable play, the
morality of which is not very nice! That is a different pair of shoes.
Undoubtedly it is a risk for Mrs. Holdfast to run; but unless I am much
mistaken in her, she loves to run risks. She could not live without
excitement. Your father's widow, my dear, was not cut out for a nun.

I feel like a person with a chess board before her, in the middle of
a game which, to lose, would ruin her. I shall not lose it. Every hour
the position of the pieces is becoming more clear to me, and I am
discussing in my mind the advisability of two or three bold moves. But I
will wait a little; something of importance will very soon be revealed
to me. Good night, my dear. Sleep well. Every moment that passes brings
our happiness nearer and nearer.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XXXIV.

MR. PELHAM MAKES HIS APPEARANCE ONCE MORE.


MY DEAR LOVE,--My note written last night was short, because I had
scarcely anything to say, and I postponed what I had to tell until
to-night. Mrs. Holdfast did not detain Fanny long yesterday. She asked
but one question, which, if the little girl had not been prepared
to answer, would have removed Fanny from the game, and increased
the difficulties of our task. In the story Fanny invented for the
mystification of Mrs. Holdfast I saw one great danger. Mrs. Holdfast is
not playing alone; there is a master mind behind her. Who that master
mind is it was necessary for me to discover, and I have made the
discovery. I shall not be surprised if, in the letter I shall write to
you to-morrow night I am able to tell you something of the very greatest
moment.

Fanny's danger was this: She had told a clever story; had invented a
sister, and had furnished a tolerably fair excuse for forcing herself
upon a lady of Mrs. Holdfast's position. But she had spoken of herself
and her sister living in lodgings in London. If there is one thing Mrs.
Holdfast desires at present to avoid it is the slightest chance of
anything coming before the public which would tend to prove that she and
Grace who destroyed Sydney Campbell are one and the same person. Perhaps
the only person who, in an indirect way, is aware of this fact (that is,
to Mrs. Holdfast's knowledge) is Fanny. Here was a risk; and between
Fanny's first and second visit to Mrs. Holdfast, the suggestion had in
some way arisen that the little girl might have been instructed in her
part by an unseen enemy. It was necessary, therefore, to test the truth
of Fanny's story, and there was only one point which could be seized
upon. In what street in London, in what house, did Fanny and her sister
live before the sister ran away? This occurred to my sharp mind before
it had been suggested to Mrs. Holdfast, and I determined to manufacture
evidence. I enlisted Mrs. Preedy on my side. I bought her a new gown,
a cloak, and a hat, and I made her a present of them. Then, having
entirely won her heart--she told me that she looked upon me as a
daughter--I cautiously imparted to her what I wanted her to do for me.
It appeared that nothing was easier. For a few shillings a friend of
Mrs. Preedy, living half a mile from Great Porter Square, undertook,
in case a lady called to ask there, to give certain answers to certain
questions about two lodgers, one called Nelly and the other Dot. The
lesson was a simple one, and was easily learned. Armed with the address,
Fanny went to Mrs. Holdfast, according to appointment. I may inform you
that I am placing fuller reliance than ever upon little Fanny, and that
I have related to her a great deal of Grace's life in Oxford, which, in
case of need, she can turn to useful account. As I anticipated, Mrs.
Holdfast asked Fanny in what house she and her sister lived in London.
Without hesitation, Fanny gave the address of Mrs. Preedy's friend, and
Mrs. Holdfast dismissed her, desiring her to call again on the following
day--this morning. I ascertained to-day that Mrs. Holdfast called at the
address, and received the answers prepared for her.

I must tell you what Mrs. Preedy said to me during the evening.

"My dear, you are not what you pretend to be."

I gave her a spirited answer, knowing by this time how to manage her.

"You are a clever woman," I replied, looking at her admiringly; "you
have guessed my secret; not one in a thousand would have done it. I am
_not_ a servant-of-all-work, and I came here to be out of the way, let
me say, of my young man. Well now, there's no harm in that, is there?"

"Not a bit of harm," she said. "But what is it all about?"

"I can't tell you just now," I said. "You may be certain of one thing.
If things go on as they've been going on lately, you will be none the
worse off for it. If I don't go into partnership with you, I shall make
you a very handsome present, and I shan't ask you for any wages. I have
broken a lot of things since I've been here, but I've bought new ones in
their place. Mrs. Preedy, you leave everything to me, and I will show
you that Becky can be grateful."

"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Preedy, "so long as there's no harm done,
I don't mind. You're a good sort, and I dare say have seen a lot of
trouble. So have I. Women are born to be imposed upon."

"Does our young man lodger pay his rent regularly?" I asked, pretending
to know nothing.

"My dear," said Mrs. Preedy, sadly, "since he has lived here I haven't
seen the colour of his money."

"Now," I said, smiling, "suppose I pay it for him. Not for his sake--for
yours. I'm not sweet on him, though he pretends to be on me. It's a
shame that you should be taken in by a foreign gentleman like him--you
can't afford it."

I found out how many weeks' rent he owed, and I paid it. I don't think
anything is wanting to complete the conquest of my mistress's heart. You
see I am spending some of the money you gave me; I couldn't get along
without it.

To-day Mrs. Holdfast received Fanny very graciously, called her a nice
little thing, said she was growing quite fond of her, and was almost
inclined to take her into the house to live with her.

"Oh, how I wish you would!" cried Fanny.

However, it appears that at present Mrs. Holdfast, even if she is in
earnest, cannot take Fanny into her house. If it _were_ done Fanny would
find a way to communicate with me, and tell me all that is going on.

Mrs. Holdfast expressed great curiosity about Fanny's sister, and asked
the child whether Nelly did not give her an address to write to.

"O, yes," said Fanny, prepared for any emergency; "Nelly's gone to
Paris. She said I might write to her at the post-office there."

What does Mrs. Holdfast do but write a letter to Fanny's sister, and
address it to the Poste Restante, Paris. She did not give the letter to
Fanny to post. What is in the letter? Nothing important, perhaps, but
written in the endeavour to more completely verify the truth of Fanny's
story. Or perhaps Mrs. Holdfast really knew some actresses in the
country, and is anxious to ascertain if Nelly is one of her old
acquaintances.

Now I will tell you something more important.

"You are a shrewd little thing," said Mrs. Holdfast to Fanny; "I have a
good mind, although I can't let you sleep in the house, to take you into
my service."

"O, do, ma'am, do!" cried Fanny.

"Well, I'll try you. But mind--you must keep my secrets. Do you know any
person in London besides me?"

"Not a blessed soul!" replied Fanny. "And I'll keep your secrets--you
try me. O, I don't believe there's a kinder lady in the world than you
are!"

"She's an artful one," said Fanny to me, as she gave me the particulars
of this conversation, "but I'm an artfuller!"

Mrs. Holdfast is so extraordinarily vain that even this deserted child's
praise was agreeable to her.

"Be true to me," said Mrs. Holdfast, "and I'll make a lady of you. Are
you fond of babies?"

To which Fanny replied that she doted on them. Mrs. Holdfast rang a
bell, and desired the maid who answered it to take Fanny into the
nursery.

"I'll come up to you presently," said Mrs. Holdfast.

Fanny went into the nursery, where she saw what she describes as the
loveliest baby in the world, all dressed in laces and silks, "more like
a beautiful wax doll," said Fanny, "than anything else." It was Mrs.
Holdfast's baby, the maid told Fanny, and her mistress doted on it.

"I've seen a good many babies and a good many mothers," said the maid,
"but I never saw a mother as fond of a baby as Mrs. Holdfast is of
hers."

Fanny's account agrees with the maid's words. When Mrs. Holdfast came
into the nursery, and took her baby, and sat in a rocking chair, singing
to the child, Fanny said it was very hard to believe that a woman like
that could do anything wrong. If Fanny were not truthful and faithful to
me, and would rather have her tongue cut out than deceive me, I should
receive her version of this wonderful mother's love with a great deal
of suspicion. But there can be no doubt of its truth. I remember that
the Reporter of the _Evening Moon_ spoke of this, and that it won his
admiration, as it could not fail to win the admiration of any person
who did not know how wicked is the heart that beats in Mrs. Holdfast's
bosom. Can you reconcile it with your knowledge of her? I cannot. It
does not raise the character of the woman in my eyes; it debases it.

In the nursery Mrs. Holdfast gave Fanny a letter, with instructions to
deliver it to the gentleman in person, and to wait for an answer.

My dear, this letter was addressed "Mr. Pelham, 147, Buckingham Palace
Road."

Here at once is established the fact of the continuance of the intimacy
between Mr. Pelham and Mrs. Holdfast. Is it possible that your father,
after you left the country, discovered that his wife was deceiving him,
and flew from the shame of her presence? It must be so. What, then, took
place between husband and wife, and to whose advantage would it be that
he should be made to disappear? I shudder to contemplate the answer. I
can find but one; it is horrible to think of.

Fanny received the letter without remark, and went to the address in
Buckingham Palace Road. Mr. Pelham was in, and Fanny was desired to walk
up-stairs. There, in a handsomely-furnished room, she saw Mr. Pelham,
lounging on a sofa, smoking and drinking. "A regular swell," said Fanny.
He tore the letter open, and tossed it away passionately, without
reading it.

"You haven't taken anything out of it?" he cried to Fanny.

"Oh, no, sir," replied Fanny, "it's just as Mrs. Holdfast gave it to me.
I was to wait for an answer."

Fanny says he looked as savage as if he had expected to find the
envelope full of money, and didn't find a penny. He drew the letter
to him and read it; then rose, and took some paper from a desk,
scribbled an answer, which he put carelessly into an envelope and
threw over to Fanny, saying, "Give her that!" Fanny states that he
is not an agreeable-looking gentleman, and that there is something
about him that reminds her of ---- but here Fanny stopped, and would
not finish what she intended to say. She roused my curiosity, but she
would not satisfy it.

"Wait a bit," she said. "I've got an idea in my head. If it's a right
one I shall astonish you. If it ain't, it would be foolish to speak
about it."

I could get nothing more than this out of her, and I let the subject
drop, but there is evidently something very weighty on her mind.

She hurried into the street with Mr. Pelham's answer to Mrs. Holdfast's
note, and getting into a quiet nook, where she was free from
observation, asked a girl to read it to her. Mr. Pelham had scarcely
wetted the gum, and the envelope was easily unfastened. Fanny
endeavoured to commit the letter to memory, but she failed; the girl who
read it to her could not quite make out the words. The letter contained
a demand for money, and Mr. Pelham said in it that before the week was
out he must have a cheque for five hundred pounds. One remark Fanny
perfectly remembered. "If you are going to turn niggardly and stingy,"
wrote Mr. Pelham, "I shall have to keep the purse myself. Don't forget
that the money is as much mine as yours, more mine than yours indeed,
and that I could ruin you with one word."

Fanny says that when Mrs. Holdfast read the letter (which she delivered
properly fastened) and came to those words--of course Fanny could only
guess that--Mrs. Holdfast said aloud:

"And yourself, too, Pelham. It would go harder with you than with me."

For a moment--only for a single moment, as I gather from Fanny--Mrs.
Holdfast's face grew haggard, but she became gay again instantly, and
began to sing and talk lightly. Can such a nature as hers really feel?

Again, for the second time this week, Richard Manx has not come to his
room in Great Porter Square. I make sure of this by putting the chain on
the street door after mid-night. I attach importance to the slightest
circumstance now, and do not allow anything to escape me. Do not for a
moment let your courage and your hopefulness fail you. We have not yet
obtained a tangible link to start from, but it appears to me as if
events were coming closer; something will come to light presently which
will assist in the discovery of your father's murderer. You are never
absent from my thoughts; you are for ever in my heart. I am yours till
death.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XXXV.

FANNY DISCOVERS WHO RICHARD MANX IS.


MY DARLING--What has occurred to-day must be related with calmness,
although my mind is in a whirl of excitement. The presentiment I felt
last night that we were on the threshold of an important discovery has
come true. A discovery _has_ been made which neither you nor I could
ever have dreamt of, and we have to thank Fanny for it. How wonderfully
all the circumstances of life seem to be woven into one another! Little
did I think, when I first met the poor, hungry little girl, and was kind
to her, that she would repay me as she has repaid me, and that we should
owe to her, perhaps, the happiness of our lives. I may be mistaken; I
may be speaking more out of my heart than my head, more out of my hopes
than my reason. But surely what Fanny has discovered will lead to a
discovery of greater moment. It is, as yet, the most important link in
the chain. We must consider what is best to be done. At noon, Fanny said
to me:

"I want a holiday; I've got something to do."

She spoke abruptly, and with great earnestness.

"You don't intend to run away from me, Fanny," I said, and immediately
repented my words, for Fanny seized my hands, and kissed them, with
tears running down her face.

"Run away from you!" she cried. "Never--never--never! How could you
think it of me. I would die for you--indeed, indeed I would!"

I quieted her, trying to excuse myself by saying that it was only
because she was keeping something secret from me that the words escaped
me.

"But I'm doing it for you," she said. "To-night I'll tell you
everything."

Now, read how Fanny passed the day. I will relate it as nearly as
possible out of her lips.

"When I went into Mr. Pelham's room, yesterday," she said, "in
Buckingham Palace Road, I didn't suspect anything at first. I didn't
like his looks, but that was nothing. There are lots of people I don't
like the looks of. I remained there while he threw away the letter, and
while he drank and smoked. He was drinking wine, and he emptied three
glasses one after another. It wasn't till he got up and went to his desk
that I noticed something--a twitch of his left shoulder upwards, just as
a man does when he shrugs his shoulders. But Mr. Pelham did not shrug
his two shoulders, he shrugged one--the left one. I only knew one other
man who did with his left shoulder what Mr. Pelham did, and I thought it
funny. While he was writing his letter he threw away his cigar, and took
a cigarette, and the way he put it into his mouth and rolled it between
his lips was just the same as the other man who twitched his shoulder
as Mr. Pelham did. Well, as I walked back to Mrs. Holdfast's house, I
seemed to see the two men--Mr. Pelham and the other, shrugging their
left shoulders, and rolling their cigarettes in their mouths, and what
they did was as like as two peas, though they were two different men,
though one was poor and the other rich. I couldn't help calling myself a
little fool when the idea came to me that they were not different men
at all, and I said to myself, 'What do they mean by it? No good, that's
certain.' So I made up my mind to do something, and I did it to-day.

"First, there was Richard Manx. I watched him out of the house. He came
down from his garret a little after twelve; I stood in the dark passage,
and watched him coming downstairs; he seemed to be out of temper, and he
gave the wall a great blow with his hand. I think he would have liked to
hear it cry out, so that he might be sure he had hurt it. I thought I
shouldn't like him to strike _me_ in that way--but I don't suppose he
would if any one was looking. He would have hit me as he hit the wall,
if he had known what I was up to--that is, if nobody was near.

"He went out of the house, closing the street door, O, so quietly behind
him. Have you noticed how quietly he does everything? He walks like a
cat--well, so can other people. I waited a minute after he closed the
street door, and then I slipped out after him. I looked all ways, and I
saw him just turning out of the Square into Great King Street. I soon
turned the corner too, and there I was walking behind him on the other
side of the way, with my eyes glued to him. Well, as good as glued. I
can walk a long way behind a person, and never lose sight of him, my
eyes are so sharp, and I didn't lose sight of Mr. Richard Manx, as he
calls himself. He walked Lambeth way, and I noticed that he was looking
about in the funniest manner, as though he was afraid he was being
watched. The farther he got from Great Porter Square the more he looked
about him; but no one took any notice of him--only me. Well, he went
down a street where half the houses were shops and half not, and at the
corner of the street was a coffee-shop. There were two doors facing him,
one going into the shop where people are served, and the other going
into a passage, very narrow and very dark. A little way up this passage
was a door, which pushed open. Mr. Manx, after looking about him more
than ever, went into the narrow dark passage, and pushed open the door.

"What I had to do now was to wait until he came out, and to dodge about
so that I shouldn't be seen or caught watching for something I didn't
know what. It was a hard job, as hard a job as ever I was at, and it was
all that I could do to keep people from watching me. I waited an hour,
and another hour, and another hour, and Mr. Manx never came out of the
coffee shop. I was regularly puzzled, and tired, and bothered. But I
didn't know what a little fool I was till after waiting for at least
four hours I found out that the coffee shop had two more doors on the
side facing the other street; doors just like the others, one going into
the shop, and the other into a narrow dark passage. When I found that
out I thought that Mr. Manx must have gone in at one door in one street
and come out at the other door in the other street, and I was regularly
vexed with myself. But that didn't help me, and I walked away from
Lambeth towards Buckingham Palace Road. I wanted to see with my own eyes
if Mr. Pelham was at home. He was; I saw him stand for a minute at the
window of his room on the front floor. Then I set to watching him. I
wanted to find out where he was going to, and what he was up to. I
suppose it was seven o'clock, and dark, before he came out. He walked
till he met a cab, and as he got in I heard him give the direction of
Mrs. Holdfast's house. That was enough for me; I followed him there, my
feet ready to drop off, I was that tired. But I wasn't going to give
up the job. No one came out of Mrs. Holdfast's house till nine o'clock
struck; then the street door was opened, and Mr. Pelham walked into the
street. He stood still a little, and I thought to myself he is thinking
whether he shall take a cab. He didn't take one till he was half-a-mile
from Mrs. Holdfast's house. I ran all the way after it. It was a good
job for me that the cab was a four-wheeler, and that it went along slow,
for running so hard set my heart beating to that extent that I thought
it would jump out of my body. I scarcely knew where we were going, the
night was that dark, but I knew it was not in the direction of
Buckingham Palace Road. Mr. Pelham rode about a mile, then called out to
the cabby, and jumped on to the pavement. He paid the man, and the cab
drove away, and then Mr. Pelham walked slowly towards Lambeth, looking
about him, although the night was so dark, in exactly the same way as
Mr. Manx had done when I followed him from Great Porter Square. I had
been on my feet all the day, and had walked miles and miles, and I
hadn't had a bit of bread in my mouth since breakfast--but when I was
certain that Mr. Pelham was walking to Lambeth I didn't feel hungry or
tired. I said to myself, 'Fanny, your idea was right; but what does it
all mean?' Well, I couldn't settle that; all I had to settle was that
the two men who shrugged their left shoulders, and who rolled their
cigarettes in their mouths in the way I had noticed, were not two men
at all, but the same man, living in one place as a gentleman and an
Englishman, and in another as a poor foreigner without a shilling. So I
was not at all surprised to see Mr. Pelham, dressed like a swell, stop
at the coffee shop at which Mr. Manx had stopped, and push through the
dark passage by the door I had not noticed when I was waiting in the
street this morning for Mr. Manx, and I wasn't at all surprised that Mr.
Pelham didn't come out again. The man who came was the man I wanted, and
I followed him home here to Great Porter Square, and he is in the house
now." And here Fanny concluded the account of her day's adventures by
asking, "Who came in five minutes before I did?"

"Richard Manx," I replied.

"It's all one," said Fanny, triumphantly; "Richard Manx is Mr. Pelham.
There's no difference between them, except that one wears a wig, and
paints his face, and talks like a foreigner, and that the other lives
in a fine house, and drinks wine, and dresses like a gentleman. That
was my idea last night. That was what I had to do when I asked you this
morning to let me go for the day. There's something in it; I don't know
what--that's for you to find out. Are you pleased with me?"

I pressed the faithful child in my arms, and she gave a sigh and
fainted. She was so eager to tell me of her discovery, and I was so
anxious to hear it, that we both forgot that for fifteen hours not a
morsel of food had passed her lips.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

BECKY AND FANNY ON THE WATCH.


A cup of hot tea and some bread and butter soon made little Fanny lively
again, and when she was quite recovered I questioned her upon many
little points, so as to make sure that she was not mistaken. She
convinced me. Richard Manx and Mr. Pelham are one and the same man, and
Richard Manx's motive for taking lodgings in this house was that he
might obtain, in a secret and unsuspected manner, access to the room
in which your father was murdered. For what purpose? To destroy every
evidence of the crime before the house comes into the possession of a
new tenant, who might by chance discover what, up to the present moment,
has escaped the eyes of the police? No--scarcely that, in a direct way.
He is not seeking to destroy or discover anything which he _knows_ to be
in existence; he is searching for a document which he _suspects_ your
father concealed before he met his death. This is but a reasonable
explanation of Richard Manx's presence here. Arguing in the dark, as we
are, and without positive knowledge, we must have a tangible foundation
on which to build our theories. I am speaking and arguing like a man, am
I not, my dear? I wonder at myself as I read over some of the things I
have written; but they are a proof that I have thrown aside all that is
weak in my nature, and that I have courage and decision to meet any
emergency.

The document which Richard Manx suspects your father to have hidden, and
for which he is searching, must, if it really exist, be of the utmost
importance. Shall I tell you what Richard Manx believes this document to
be? A second Will, which would make a beggar of the woman who betrayed
him, and consequently of Mr. Pelham, who, with your father's widow, is
enjoying your father's money--_your_ money, my dear! I am not mercenary,
but next to the clearing of your name and the punishment of your
father's murderer, I want you to enjoy what is your own. Selfish mortal
that I am, I want you to be happy and rich, and I want to share your
happiness and riches.

If Richard Manx obtains possession of this document, it will be a
serious blow to us. Something must be done, and done promptly--and at
the same time we must not put Richard Manx on his guard.

Now, pay particular attention to the following little piece of
reasoning. Look at the date of the _Evening Moon_ in which the public
were first made acquainted with the name of the murdered man. And by the
side of that date place the significant fact that Mr. Pelham, disguised
as Richard Manx, took lodgings here three weeks before that discovery
was made. What follows? That Mr. Pelham knew, three weeks before the
police became acquainted with the fact, that it was your father who had
been murdered. Why, then, should he not have known it on the very night
of the murder itself, and why did he keep the knowledge to himself? What
was his reason for concealment? A world of dreadful conjecture opens
itself to me, and I am almost afraid to put my thoughts on paper. They
are not centred alone on Mr. Pelham; Mrs. Holdfast intrudes herself in a
way that makes me shudder. My God! Is it possible that there can be such
wickedness in the world?

In the account Mrs. Holdfast gave the Reporter of the _Evening Moon_ (I
have the paper now before me) from which he wrote his "Romance in Real
Life," she says that in her distress at the mysterious absence of her
husband, she went to a friend for advice. This friend had interested
himself in her case, and had written to America in her behalf, to
ascertain particulars of her husband's movements. Her friend it was who,
according to her statement, first suggested that her husband might have
been robbed and murdered. He sent her to a lawyer, who, during the
interview, made a private memorandum which she read. The lawyer said,
"We will find your husband for you, dead or alive;" and then he made
the memorandum, as a guide for himself: "Look up the murders. How about
the murder in Great Porter Square?" From that she proceeds to describe
how she went to a number of shops, and bought a number of newspapers
containing accounts of the discovery of the murder and of the accusation
brought against Antony Cowlrick. Her suspicions were aroused. She gave
the lawyer a portrait of her husband, and in a very little time it
was ascertained and made public that it was Mr. Holdfast who had been
murdered. Read by itself, the Reporter's description is enthralling;
those who read for amusement would not stop to inquire as to whether
this was likely or that reasonable; they would accept the statement
without question, and give their sincere pity to a lady who had been
so foully wronged. But, read by the light of what has come to our
knowledge, the traces of collusion, deception, clever acting--of guilt
perhaps--are as clear as sunlight. Observe that Mrs. Holdfast does not
give the name of her friend--who must have been a very close friend
indeed to take such an interest in her. I will give you his name--it is
Pelham. Nor does she give the name of the lawyer to whom Mr. Pelham sent
her. If you sought him and became acquainted with his antecedents, you
would find that he was in Mr. Pelham's pay, and that, up to a certain
point, he acted in accordance with instructions. I think I have
established the fact that Mr. Pelham knew your father was dead long
before it was made public. Mrs. Holdfast must also have known. Why did
they wait so long before they took steps towards the discovery? To avert
any chance of suspicion being directed towards themselves? It is likely
enough, and that is also the reason, when you, as Antony Cowlrick, were
brought up at the police-court on suspicion of being implicated in
the murder, why Mr. Pelham kept carefully out of sight, and therefore
had no opportunity of recognising you. In this excess of caution he
over-reached himself.

At length, however, the time arrived when it was imperative the name of
the murdered man should be made known, and Mr. Pelham and Mrs. Holdfast
acted in concert. Your father's Will, of course, could not be proved in
your father's lifetime, so it was necessary that the fact of his death
should be established. It was done, and clear sailing was before them,
with the exception of one threatening gale which promises to wreck
them--the document for which Richard Manx is searching. He has not found
it yet, or he would not have struck the wall so viciously as he did this
morning when Fanny was watching him. Fate is against him, and is on our
side.

Another little point, of which a lawyer would make a mountain. Did it
not occur to you as very strange that Mrs. Holdfast so easily obtained
from small newspaper shops a quantity of newspapers relating to a
murder at least three months old? The shops do not keep a stock of old
newspapers on hand: I know that this is so, from personal inquiry.

Just now there comes to my mind the report in the papers that, during
the nine days your father lived in the fatal house next door, he had but
one visitor--a lady, who came so closely veiled that no person in the
house caught a glimpse of her face? Do you think it possible that this
lady was Mrs. Holdfast?

Good night, my dearest. By the morning some plan may occur to me which
may help us to the end. Fanny went to bed an hour ago. Mrs. Preedy is
asleep, and all is quiet in the house. What would I give if I could see
into the mind of our young man lodger, Richard Manx!

       *       *       *       *       *

I re-open my letter; I have something to add to it.

No sooner did I lay my head on my pillow than I fell asleep. I think I
must have slept over an hour when I was awoke by the sound of some one
opening my bedroom door. I raised myself in bed, and cried in a loud
tone, "Who's there?"

"Hush! Don't make a noise. I've come to tell you something."

It was Fanny who spoke, and she was standing at my bedside.

"Are you frightened, Fanny?" I asked. "Shall I light a candle?"

"No," replied Fanny, "it might wake Mrs. Preedy. I'm not frightened.
I've been on the look-out."

I passed my hand over Fanny, and discovered that she was fully dressed;
but so that she should not be heard she had taken off her boots.

"On the look-out, Fanny!" I exclaimed. "Why you haven't been in bed!
What is the meaning of it?"

"I've been in bed," said Fanny, "but I didn't undress, and I didn't go
to sleep. I've been listening. _He's_ in the next house."

"Who?" I cried. "Richard Manx!"

And I jumped up, and began to dress myself. Heaven only knows why, for
I had no intention of going out of my bedroom.

"Yes, Richard Manx," replied Fanny.

"Have you heard anything?"

"Yes, like some one taking up the floor."

"A loud noise then, Fanny."

"No--everything's being done soft--like a cat moving; but there's a
crack sometimes, and a wrench, just the noise that would be made if
boards were being taken up."

These words set me all in a fever. Richard Manx was getting desperate,
and did not mean to give up his search without examining everything in
the room. What if he _should_ discover the document he is looking for?
It would be he, then, who would hold the winning cards. The thought was
torture. It seemed to me as if I were within reach of your happiness,
your safety, of the vindication of your honour, and as if they were
slipping from me.

"Are you sure it is Richard Manx who is in the next house?" I asked.

"As sure as guns," said Fanny.

"How can you tell? You can't see through the walls."

"No, I wish I could--then I should find out something more. When the
noise first came I didn't move for a long while; I waited till Mr. Manx
was deep in his little game; then I got up so quietly that Mrs. Bailey
didn't stir, and I went out of the room, and upstairs to the garret.
The door was shut, and I pushed it softly, and it gave way. I slid
downstairs like lightning, for if Mr. Manx had been in the room he would
have come to the door at once; then, if he didn't see anyone, he might
think it was the wind that had blown the door open. But he didn't come
because he wasn't in the room, and the door remained just as I left it.
I crept up again, and peeped into the room; it was empty, and there
_was_ a wind blowing--right over my head. I looked up, and saw a
trap-door in the ceiling, open, and just under it two chairs, one on top
of the other. That is how Mr. Manx reaches the roof; and he gets down
into the next house through another trap-door."

"How do you know that, Fanny?" I asked.

"Why," said the courageous little creature, "You don't suppose I was
going not to find that out, do you? I should be a nice one if I hadn't
climbed up on the chairs, and lifted myself up on to the roof. I can do
that a deal better than Mr. Manx, there's so little of me. I crept along
on all-fours, and reached the other trap-door leading to the next house.
It was open. I didn't go down because it was dark, and I was frightened
of falling. It wasn't that I cared about hurting myself, but it would
have brought Mr. Manx up to me, and then all the fat would have been in
the fire. So I thought I would come back and tell you. Would you like to
come up, and see for yourself?"

I made up my mind to go. Yes, I would convince myself of the fact that
it was Richard Manx who haunted the murder-stricken house for his own
villainous purposes.

I was soon completely dressed, and, giving Fanny some instructions, in
case of danger, I accompanied her upstairs. I held my tiny revolver in
my hand, and showed it to Fanny, who expressed great admiration. The
child can be conquered by only one kind of fear, that which comes from
hunger. She has suffered enough from that frightful torturer, but will
never again, I hope.

I went first into Mrs. Bailey's room; the old lady was in a sound sleep.
I listened with my ear to the wall. Richard Manx was busy; caution was
expressed in his every movement. Once or twice it almost seemed as if I
heard his voice in impatient anger. I do not think it was fancy on my
part; my senses were exquisitely alert to the slightest sign of this
disguised enemy. While I was in Mrs. Bailey's room, Fanny remained in
the passage. I found out afterwards that she had armed herself with a
small, sharp-pointed knife, which I am convinced she would have used
without hesitation in my defence. I with my pistol, and Fanny with
her knife, were more than a match for Richard Manx if we came into
collision. There is no bravery in the villain; at the first show of
danger he would have fled, and Fanny, fleeter of foot than he, would
have been after him. I hardly know whether it would be well for us or
not that he should fall into the hands of the police, disguised as he
is, and made to give an account of his movements. I shall do nothing
for the next few hours to precipitate events. They appear to be shaping
themselves to our advantage, for up to this moment Richard Manx's search
has proved fruitless.

I went upstairs, with Fanny close to me, to the garret. Everything
there was as Fanny had described. The room was vacant; two chairs were
strapped one on top of the other, affording a firm footing by which a
person could climb on to the roof; the trap-door was open. I did not
hesitate to search the room. In my detective capacity, proceedings I
should ordinarily have blushed to take I now deem fair, but I found
nothing in the place to help me or to endanger the liberty of Richard
Manx. In a corner of the garret was a common trunk, locked; I tried to
open it, but could not. I should have liked to find a portrait of Mrs.
Holdfast--a womanly wish, which would never have occurred to you. I was
about to mount the chairs to the roof when Fanny pulled my dress. Her
quick ears, quicker even than mine, had caught a sound. We retreated
noiselessly, closed the garret door and sat at the foot of the stairs,
listening for Richard Manx's return. I wished to ascertain by the
evidence of my own senses that he had not met with success in his
search. If he had found any document he would have stopped up to read it
before he retired to rest. Rest! Can such a conscience as this man must
possess allow him ever to rest?

Presently we heard him pull the trap-door in the roof over him; we heard
him descend from the chairs, and place them in their proper positions;
we saw the light of his candle through a chink in the garret door; he
moved about stealthily for a few moments; and then he extinguished his
light.

This was sufficient for me; we were and are still on equal ground with
respect to any document your father may have concealed before his death.
For some hours all is safe; in the day time Richard Manx dare not enter
the empty house. I have nothing more at present to say. Good-night, dear
love.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

NO. 119 GREAT PORTER SQUARE IS LET TO A NEW TENANT.


To the closed shutters of No. 119 Great Porter Square was attached
a board, on which were painted the words, "This House to Let on
reasonable terms, or the Lease to be sold. Apply to Mr. Stapleton,
House Agent, Great Andrew Street, Bloomsbury." The board had grown
disconsolate-looking and disreputable, as though it was a partner in
the disgrace which had fallen upon the tenement.

At the time the notice "To Let" was attached to the shutters, the agent
had no hope whatever of letting the house. "There isn't a chance of
anybody taking it," he said, "for at least three months." The three
months passed, and no probable tenant had made his appearance. "There's
nothing for it but patience," he then said. "Would _you_ live in the
house?" asked his wife, when he was dilating upon the folly of people
allowing such a chance to escape them. "Not for untold gold!" he
replied. "Well then!" she exclaimed; winding up the argument thus, as
is the way with women.

He was much astonished, therefore, upon returning to his office from his
mid-day chop, to find a gentleman waiting to see him, who, closing the
door of the little private room in which he transacted special business,
asked him if No. 119 Great Porter Square was still to let.

"Yes," said Mr. Stapleton; "the board's up; you can see it as you pass
the house."

"I have not passed through Great Porter Square for a long time," said
the gentleman, "and I was not aware that a board was up. I was directed
to come to you by a friend, who told me you were the agent."

"Do you wish to take the house?" asked Mr. Stapleton, looking with some
suspicion upon his prospective client.

"I should have no objection," said the gentleman, "If I can have it on
my own terms----"

"On any terms," interrupted Mr. Stapleton, a little too eagerly, and
adding, in correction of his over-haste, "that is, for a certain
time--after which, of course, we expect a fair rent. The prejudice
against the place _must_ wear away one time or another."

"But the murder remains," observed the gentleman, sadly; "time will not
wear that away."

"True," said Mr. Stapleton, coughing; "nothing can wear that away. But I
refer to the sentiment, the feeling, the prejudice."

"You interrupted me just now," said the gentleman, coming back to the
practical. "I was about to say that I should have no objection to take
the house if I can have it on my own terms and conditions. By 'terms' I
don't mean money. I have no doubt we shall agree upon the question of
rent."

"We will put the house in repair for you," said Mr. Stapleton; "you can
choose your own paper, and we will give it three good coatings of paint
outside. In fact, anything you can suggest we shall be most happy to
consider."

"I have nothing to suggest," said the gentleman, "and I do not propose
to put you to the expense of a shilling for repairs. I will take the
house just as it is, if my conditions are complied with."

Mr. Stapleton looked gravely at his visitor, and said, as he rubbed his
chin:

"I don't think we could let the house for the purposes of exhibition."

"Good God!" cried the gentleman, "I should hope not. It would be making
a trade of murder!"

"My sentiments exactly," acquiesced Mr. Stapleton, "only you express
them so much more forcibly." At the same time, he began to regard the
gentleman as a very queer customer indeed, and to wonder why he was so
long in coming to the point. Had he been aware of the gentleman's inward
agitation and anxiety, and of what depended upon the result of this
application, his wonder would have been lessened, and he might have
raised the rent instead of lowering it.

"May I ask what are your conditions?"

"The first and most important," replied the gentleman, "is secresy. I
wish no one to know that I have taken the house; I wish no one to know
that it is let. The board will remain up; the house will remain as it
is. All that I shall require of you is the key of the street-door. These
conditions complied with, I will pay you six months' rent in advance,
and I will make myself responsible for another six months. It is more
than probable--nay, it is almost certain--that before three months are
over I shall hand you back the key, with the rent for the additional six
months. As a matter of bargain, it is not a bad one for you."

"I admit it," said Mr. Stapleton; "what I have to consider, on the other
hand, is whether it is a good thing for the house."

"Do you think you can do better?"

"I do not think I could; yours is the first application I have had
since the murder was committed. You shudder, sir! It is enough to make
one. If I had not been an agent for the estate, nothing would have
induced me to undertake the letting of such a house. What am I to say in
case another person, seeing the board still up, applies to me for the
particulars?"

"Say that, although the board remains, you have decided not to let the
house for two or three months. No one can compel you to let it."

"Certainly not--certainly not," said Mr. Stapleton. "You will excuse my
remarking that there is something very mysterious in all this, and that
you appear singularly anxious to take the house."

"Your remark is a natural one. There _is_ something mysterious in it,
and I _am_ most anxious to become your tenant."

"You are candid enough in that respect, I must say. Will you favour me
with your name and references?--you have references, of course; they are
indispensable."

"I have references, with which you will be satisfied. But I cannot give
them to you, nor can I disclose my name, until you say the house is
mine, on my conditions--to which I must add another: that my name is not
entered on your books for your clerks to comment upon and prattle about.
If you agree, and my references are satisfactory, the matter can be
concluded at once. If they are not satisfactory, I cannot expect you
to accept me as a tenant. It will be a grief to me, but I shall be
compelled to submit, and must seek another mode of carrying out my
designs."

So much was Mr. Stapleton's curiosity excited that he consented to the
proposed arrangement.

"Now for the references," he said.

"I will take you to them," responded the gentleman. "I am most earnestly
desirous that the affair be concluded immediately. Charge me what you
please for your loss of time in accompanying me, and believe that if it
be in my power to show my gratitude to you by-and-bye, I shall not miss
the opportunity."

Unusual as was this mode of conducting his business, Mr. Stapleton
consented, and accompanied the gentleman to a house in the most
fashionable part of London, where he obtained a recommendation in
every way satisfactory, and then to a common locality, where a private
detective, known to him by name, vouched for the respectability of his
proposed tenant.

"Is this a police affair, then?" he asked of the detective.

"Perhaps it is and perhaps it isn't," replied the detective. "What
you've got to do with it is to take your rent, and keep your mouth
shut."

"A wink's as good as a nod," said Mr. Stapleton, and departed with
his tenant to his office, where the preliminaries were completed, and
the rent paid to him. He whistled softly when he heard the name of
the tenant, which was given to him in confidence, but he took the
detective's advice, and kept his mouth shut--except to his wife, upon
his return home; but even to her he would impart nothing more than
that he had that day transacted the strangest piece of business in his
experience.

Long before this strange piece of business was concluded, Becky had
received the following reply to her letter:


"MY DARLING,--Your news is most important, and little Fanny has earned
my undying gratitude. As for yourself, I am at a loss what to say. The
evidences of indomitable spirit you have displayed have filled me with
wonder. It is given to me to know, as no other man has ever known, of
what a noble woman's love is capable. You would inspire a dying man with
hope and courage; but remember, you are a woman, and can only do, under
certain circumstances, what it is in a woman's power to do. You have
the heart of the bravest man, but you have not his strength. I know the
villain Pelham, otherwise Richard Manx, to be a coward, but it is hard
to say to what extremes a desperate man, brought to bay, may be driven.
False courage may come to him in such a crisis--to last most likely but
for a few minutes, or seconds even, but long enough to do a deed which
may bring life-long sorrow to a loving heart--to my loving heart, which
beats for you, as yours beats for me. Such a risk must not be run. You
could cope, I believe, better than I could with such a creature as my
murdered father's widow, upon whose soul lies the guilt of the death of
two noble gentlemen, but you are not the equal of villains like Pelham,
who would strike a woman, and tremble in the presence of a man. I feel
faint to think of the peril you were in when you and your brave little
friend entered Richard Manx's room in the dead of night. You do not
realise it; I do, and I must take some step to avert danger from the
girl I love, and to bring the murderer of my father to justice. The
time for watching is over; the time for action has arrived. It is now
for me to take up the thread of evidence which you have woven, and to
strengthen it into a chain from which the guilty cannot escape. Time is
too precious to waste; not another day, not another hour, must be lost.
I agree with you that Pelham has reason to suspect that my dear father
left behind him, and concealed, a document which may re-establish me
in my place among men, and supply damning evidence against those who
brought him to his death. It is, I see well, the only direct evidence
upon which we can rely--for though Pelham, by coming to your house under
a disguise, and by his subsequent actions, has laid himself open to the
gravest suspicion and to certain disgrace, I doubt whether what could be
brought against him would be sufficiently strong to clear up the awful
mystery of my father's murder. And that is my first duty--to leave no
stone unturned, to work with all my strength and cunning, with all my
heart and soul and body, to satisfy the claims of justice. My father's
blood calls out to me to devote myself utterly, to risk every danger,
to die if need be, in the pursuit and accomplishment of this sacred
duty. To bring disgrace upon Pelham is not sufficient--has he not
already reached that end in his life and character? Something more than
suspicious motive is needed, and I will not rest till he is hunted down,
and his guilt brought home to him. Again and again I implore you to
leave him now entirely to me. Go up to his room no more, or you may mar
the steps I have already taken, and am about to take. I have told you
that, when I was living in my dear father's house, I had in my employ a
detective who tracked the shameless woman to an appointment with Pelham,
and through whose instrumentality I hoped to open my father's eyes to
the true character of the wife who was disgracing him. You know how
she worked upon my father's deep love for her, and frustrated my just
design. The use of the detective was, and is, revolting to me, but there
was (and to a certain extent is) no other way of obtaining evidence.
This detective, with men under him, is again in my employ. It was he
who brought my Statement to you when I lately returned from Liverpool.
Mr. Pelham, in his own proper person, and in the disguise he has
assumed, is now under strict surveillance; and the partner of his guilt,
my father's widow, is also being watched. Not a movement outside their
houses will escape notice; nor shall they escape, in their own persons,
if they make the attempt. I think something of the kind is meditated,
for Mrs. Holdfast--it maddens me to think that I must call her by the
name which I hope you will one day bear--is converting into money all my
father's property, and she is not doing this without a motive. Let her
beware! The sword is hanging over her head, and may fall at any moment.
I can imagine no greater misery for this woman than to be thrust upon
the world in a state of poverty. For even if she could be proved guilty
of nothing but love's treachery as regards my father, I shall have no
pity for her. She has tasted the pleasures of wealth, and it would
poison all her after-life to be deprived of it. I write bitterly, and I
do not attempt to disguise my feelings. The face of this woman--fair,
alas! but that is one of the mockeries of nature--as it rises before me,
seems almost to blight the sweet beauty which lies in innocence, truth
and purity. Forgive me for my bitterness; I have suffered much; had it
not been for you I should have lost all faith in goodness. How much I
owe you!

"It does not surprise me to learn, through Fanny's reading of the letter
which Mr. Pelham gave her to deliver to Mrs. Holdfast, that Pelham and
she are at variance upon monetary matters. Such natures as theirs are of
necessity grasping and avaricious, and although they are bound to each
other by the closest and most dangerous ties, there cannot possibly be
harmony between them; experience has made each suspicious of the other,
and has shown them, through the mirror of their own souls, how little of
truth and honesty they can expect from each other. Had my father died
a natural death, I should have been content to leave them to their own
punishment--bitterer than any enemy could have made it for them.

"By to-night's train a messenger leaves for Paris; to-morrow morning he
will receive at the Poste Restante the letter Mrs. Holdfast wrote to
Fanny's imaginary sister, Nelly. There may be nothing in it, but I have
caught the inspiration of your own bold spirit; not a chance must be
lost sight of. The messenger will open and read the letter in Paris,
and, if necessary, he will reply to it and post his reply there. This,
in any event, will avert suspicion from your brave little Fanny--God
bless her!--in case she and Mrs. Holdfast should meet again.

"You will readily understand that the expenses of all these proceedings
are more than I could meet, in my present position, unless I had at my
back a rich and generous friend. I have that friend in Adolph, who knows
everything; I have concealed nothing from him; his indignation against
our enemies, and his sympathy for ourselves, are unbounded. He has
supplied me with ample means, not caring, he says, whether the money is
ever repaid. After all, my dear, there is more light than shadow in the
world.

  "With my dearest love, for ever yours,
  "FREDERICK."

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE NEW TENANT TAKES POSSESSION OF NO. 119 GREAT PORTER SQUARE.


An hour before midnight of the day on which No. 119 Great Porter Square
was let to a new tenant, a man dressed in plain clothes walked leisurely
round the Square in a quiet and secretly-watchful manner. Rain was
falling, and there were but few persons about, but, although the man
spoke to none, he appeared to take an interest in all, scrutinising them
closely with keen, observant eyes. Between him and the policemen he met
in his circuitous wanderings a kind of freemasonry evidently existed.
Once or twice he asked, under his breath, without stopping:

"All right?"

And received in answer the same words, spoken rapidly and in a low tone:

"All right!"

No other words were exchanged.

As the church bells chimed eleven, Richard Manx entered Mrs. Preedy's
house, No. 118, letting himself in with his latch-key. He passed the man
who was walking round the Square, but took no notice of him. As he stood
at the street door, searching in his pocket for his latch-key, the man
passed the house, and did not even raise his eyes to Richard Manx's
face. The presumption was that they were utterly indifferent to each
other; but presumptive evidence is as often wrong as right, and between
the actions of these two men, strangers to each other, existed a strong
link which boded ill to one of them. At a quarter past eleven Mrs.
Preedy, somewhat later than her wont, bustled out of her house for her
nightly gossip with Mrs. Beale. By this time the rain was coming down
faster, and when Mrs. Preedy disappeared, Great Porter Square may be
said to have been deserted, with the exception of the one man who had
been walking there for an hour, and the policeman sauntering at the
corner. The man now paused before Mrs. Preedy's house, and knocked
softly at the door. Becky's sharp ears caught the sound, soft as it was,
and she ascended from the basement, and inquired who was there. The
answer was:

"A friend."

Becky opened the door, and peered out, but it was too dark for her to
recognise the man's face.

"It's all right, Miss," said the man, "I've been here before. I brought
a packet and a letter to you from Mr. Frederick. He sent me here now."

"How am I to know that?" asked Becky.

The man smiled in approval, and handed Becky an envelope addressed to
herself. She retreated into the passage, and while the man remained upon
the doorstep, she opened the envelope and stooped down. There was a
candle on the floor which she had brought up from the kitchen, and by
its light she read the few words written on the note paper.

  "The man who gives you this is the detective I mentioned in my letter
  this morning. Trust him and attend to his instructions.--FREDERICK."

Becky returned to the detective and said:

"I know you now. What do you want me to do?"

"Is there any chance of Richard Manx hearing us?" asked the detective.

Becky, placing her fingers to her lips went to the basement stairs and
called:

"Fanny!"

The child appeared immediately, and Becky whispered in her ear for a few
moments. Fanny nodded, and crept softly upstairs in the direction of the
garret occupied by Richard Manx.

"We are safe," said Becky to the detective. "Richard Manx cannot hear
what we say. Fanny is keeping watch on him."

"Fanny's a clever little thing," said the detective admiringly; "I'd
like a daughter with her wits. Now, Miss, keep in your mind what I am
going to tell you--not that there's any need for me to say that. You are
working for Mr. Frederick, as I am, and others with me. A watch is going
to be set outside this house--and if it's done as well as the watch
you've kept inside the house, we shan't have any reason to grumble. In
what room does the old bedridden lady, Mrs. Bailey sleep?"

"In the first floor back," replied Becky.

"Is the first floor front open? Can you get into the room?"

"Yes, I have the key."

"That's the room, isn't it?" said the detective, stepping back and
looking up. "There's a balcony before the window."

"Yes."

"Does the window open easily?"

"I don't know; I have never tried."

"Would you oblige me by stepping upstairs and trying now? And it will
save trouble if you leave the window open. Be as quiet as you can, so
as not to alarm Richard Manx. I'll keep outside the street door while
you're gone."

Becky went softly into the kitchen for the key of the first floor front,
and then went upstairs and opened the door. She might have been a
shadow, she glided about so noiselessly. The window was not easy to
open, but she succeeded in raising the sash almost without a sound.

"It is done," she said, as she stood before the detective once more.

"I'd like to have another daughter," said he, in a tone of approval,
"with wits as sharp as yours. I believe Mr. Frederick was right when he
told me there was not your equal. Now, something's going to be done
that will take about a quarter-of-an-hour to do, and we want to be sure
during that quarter-of-an-hour that Richard Manx is not up to any of his
little games. You understand me--we want to be sure that he is in his
garret, smoking his pipe, or saying his prayers, or reading a good book.
You and Fanny between you can do that part of the business for us--I
leave you to manage how. I wouldn't presume to dictate to _you_. If ever
you've a mind to give lessons in _my_ way of business, you may count on
me as a pupil."

"We can do what you ask," said Becky; "but how are we to let you know?"

"There's the window of the first floor front open. If Richard Manx is
safe in his room, let fly a bit of newspaper out of the window--I shall
see it, and know what it means. If there's danger--if at any time within
a quarter-of-an-hour of the newspaper flying out of the window, Richard
Manx is up to any of his games, such as going out of his room through
the ceiling instead of through the door, or prowling about the roof when
he ought to be in bed--throw one of these little balls of red worsted
out of the window. That will be a danger signal, and we shall know what
to do."

"May I ask you one question?"

"A dozen if you like--but I won't promise to answer them."

"I think you may answer this one. Is the gentleman who employs you
taking an active part in what is going to be done?"

"He is, Miss."

"Then he is near here!" exclaimed Becky. She could not restrain herself
from looking this way and that through the darkness, but she saw nothing
but shadows. Not a human being except the man beside her was visible
to her sight. "O, if I could see him only for a moment!" she murmured
softly, but not so softly that the detective did not hear the words.

"Best not, Miss," he said; "I've known the finest schemes upset just in
the same way. There's only one thing to be thought of--when that's done,
the time is all before you."

"You are right, I feel," said Becky, with a sigh. "I'll go in now, and
do what you want."

The detective stepped on to the pavement, and when the street door was
closed, stationed himself by the railings of the parody of a garden
which occupied the centre of the Square. He kept his eyes fixed on the
first floor window until he saw fluttering from it a piece of newspaper.
His professional instinct caused him to pick this piece of paper from
the ground, so that it should not fall into the hands of an enemy; then
he took from his pocket a pocket-handkerchief and waved it in the air.
During his conversation with Becky, and up to this moment, his movements
had not been disturbed, and no man or woman had appeared in the Square;
but now, in answer to his signal, a man made his way towards him.

"All's well," said the detective; "get in as quickly as you can."

The man did not reply; accompanied by the detective, he walked up to the
house in which the murder had been committed, and inserted the key in
the street door. The lock was rusty, and he could not turn the key.

"I thought of that," said the detective; "take the key out, sir."

Producing a small bottle of oil and a feather, he oiled the wards of
the lock, without allowing his attention to be distracted from his
observation of the first floor windows of Mrs. Preedy's house; he then
rubbed a little oil into the wards of the key, and putting it in, turned
the lock. The door of No. 119 was open to receive the new tenant.

"A word, sir," said the detective; "there's no danger at present.
Nothing can come within fifty yards of us without my being warned of it.
Are you quite determined to pass these two nights in the house alone?"

"I am quite determined--this night and to-morrow night, and as many more
as may be necessary."

"I've got a man handy--a man you can trust, sir."

"I require no one."

"Very good, sir. Don't forget the whistle if you require help. There'll
be no danger in the day; it's the night you'll have to be careful of.
At one o'clock in the morning you'll find the basket lowered into the
area."

"That is well; but you had best remain on the spot for a few moments
till I see if I can get into the area."

He went into the deserted house, and shut himself in. Before he took a
step inwards he sat on the floor, and pulled off his boots, and with
these in his hands rose, and groped towards the basement stairs.
Downstairs he crept in his stocking feet, and, after listening for a
moment or two, obtained a light from a noiseless match, and lighted the
lamp in a policeman's lantern. By its aid he found his way through a
small door, which he opened with difficulty, into the area. He looked
up, and was instantly accosted by the detective.

"There is no difficulty in the way," he said. "Good night."

"Good night, sir."

Thus it was that Frederick Holdfast, the new tenant, took possession of
the house in which his father had been foully murdered.

Silently he re-entered the kitchen, closing behind him the door which
led into the area. The place was damp and cold, but his agitation was
so intense that he was oblivious of personal discomfort. Even when the
rats ran over his stocking feet he was not startled. He had brought a
bundle in with him, which he placed upon the table and unpacked. It
contained food and wine, but not sufficient for the time he intended to
remain in the house. This was to be supplied to him in the basket which
the detective promised to lower into the area in a couple of hours.
In his breast pocket was a revolver, which he examined carefully. So
cautious was he in his proceedings that, before he unpacked his food and
examined his revolver, he blocked the stairs which led from the kitchen
to the ground floor by chairs, the removing or scattering of which would
have warned him that he was not the only person in the house.

Presently he nerved himself to undertake a task which sent thrills of
horror through his veins, which brought tears of anguish to his eyes,
and sighs of pity and grief to his lips. He opened the door of the
servant's bedroom, a cupboard as small as that which Becky occupied
in the next house; he tracked with his eyes the direction which a
mortally-wounded man would take from the kitchen door to the door
of this miserable bedroom. He followed the track, examining it with
agonised care, and knelt down before the stains of blood which marked
the spot upon which his murdered father had fallen in his death agony.
Time had not worn away the stains, and Frederick's suffering and
sympathy made them clearer to his sight than they could possibly have
been to the sight of any other living being. For a long time he remained
kneeling by this fatal, palpable, indelible shadow--remained as if in
prayer, and overpowering self-communing. And, indeed, during the time
he so knelt, with this shadow of his father's body in his eyes, and
weighing as an actual weight upon his heart, causing him to breathe
thickly and in short hurried gasps, dim pictures of his childhood passed
before him, in every one of which his father appeared in an affectionate
and loving guise. And all the while these sweeter presentments were
visible to his inner sight, his father dead, with the blood oozing
from his fatal wounds, lay before him with horrible distinctness. When
he rose, and moved a few paces off, not only the shadow but the very
outlines of a physical form seemed to be lying at his feet. The dying
face was raised to his, the dim eyes looked into his, the limbs
trembled, the overcharged breast heaved; and when, after closing his
eyes and opening them again, he compelled himself, because of the actual
duty before him, to believe that it was but the trick of a sympathetic
imagination, he could not rid himself of the fancy that his father's
spirit was hovering over him, and would never leave him until his task
was accomplished.

He tracked the fatal stains out of the kitchen, and up the stairs to the
passage to the street door, and noted the stains upon the balustrade, to
which his father had clung as he staggered to his death. As he stood in
the passage he fancied he heard a stifled movement in one of the rooms
above. Hastily he shut out the light of his lamp, and stood in deep
darkness, listening for a repetition of the sound. It did not reach
him, but as he leant forward, with his head inclined, and his hand upon
his revolver, the church clock proclaimed the hour of midnight. Clear,
strong and deep, and fraught with unspeakable solemnity, the bell tolled
the hour which marks the tragedy and the sorrow of life. Shadows and
pictures of sad experiences, and of pathetic and tragic events, which
were not in any way connected with him, crowded upon his mind. It
appeared as if the records of years were brought before him in every
fresh tolling of the bell, and when the echo of the last peal died away,
a weight which had grown well nigh intolerable was lifted from his soul.
Then, his thoughts recurring to the sound which he had fancied he heard
in the room above, he mentally asked himself whether the murderer had
paused to listen to the tolling of the midnight hour, and whether any
premonition of the fate in store for him had dawned upon his guilty
mind?

For awhile nothing further disturbed him. Lying upon the stairs for
fully five minutes, he convinced himself that as yet no other human
being but himself was in the house. Turning the light of his lantern on
again, he continued his examination of his father's last movements up
the stairs to the first floor. No need for him to doubt which was the
room his father had occupied. The stains of blood led him to the very
door, and here again he shut out the light of his lamp, and listened and
looked before he ventured to place his hand upon the handle. Silence
reigned; no glimmer of light was observable through the chinks and
crevices of the door. Still in darkness, he turned the handle and
entered the room. He had disturbed no one; he was alone.

Cautiously he let in the light, but not to its full capacity. An amazing
sight greeted him.

None of the furniture in the house had been removed, and everything his
father had used during his fatal tenancy was in the room. The piano, the
table at which he sat and wrote, the chairs, the bed, were there--but
not in the condition in which they had been left. A demon of destruction
appeared to have been at work. The bed was ripped open, the paper had
been stripped from the walls, the coverings of the chairs were torn off,
and the chairs themselves broken to pieces, the table was turned on
end, the interior of the piano had been ransacked, the very keys were
wrenched away--in the desperate attempt to discover some hidden thing,
some hidden document upon which life and death might hang. More than
this. The carpet had been taken up, and a few of the boards of the floor
had been wrenched away, and the dust beneath searched amongst. But this
was recent work; the greater part of the room was still boarded over.

Frederick Holdfast had no intention himself of immediately commencing a
search; he knew that it would be dangerous. For a certainty Richard
Manx intended to continue it without delay, and was only waiting for
a favourable opportunity to leave his attic. This thought induced
Frederick to consider in what way he could best watch the villain's
movements, without being himself detected. To do this in the room itself
was impossible. There was no chance by the window; it could be done only
from the ceiling or from the adjoining room. To effect an opening in the
ceiling in so short a time as he had at his disposal was impracticable,
and even could it be done, there were dangerous chances of detection.
After a little reflection, he decided that it could be best done from
the adjoining room, and the moment this was decided upon he saw that
Richard Manx had to some extent assisted him. The laths which separated
the rooms were fragile, the plaster was thinly spread; many of the laths
in the dividing wall had been laid bare by the stripping of the paper.
He stood up on the bed, and without an appreciable effort, thrust his
finger between the laths, and through the wall paper of the adjoining
apartment, choosing that part of the wall which would afford him a
favourable point of espionage. Alighting from the bed, he carefully
obliterated the marks of footsteps on the clothes, and then left the
room for the one adjoining. The door was unlocked, and the key was in
the inside. More from the locality than from the aperture, so securely
small had he made it, he saw at once that it was practicable, and he
ascertained by moving the table close to the wall, that a safe footing
was afforded for his watch. This contented him, and for a time he
rested.

There were still no signs of Richard Manx. One o'clock had struck, and
remembering that at that hour the basket of food was to be lowered into
the area, he hastened downstairs, and arrived just in time to receive
it.

"Everything is quiet here," said the detective, in a hoarse whisper. "Is
our friend at work?" meaning by "our friend," Richard Manx.

"No," replied Frederick.

"Ah, he will be presently," said the detective; "he doesn't commence
till he thinks everybody's asleep, and Mrs. Preedy has only been home
for about ten minutes. She's as fond of a gossip as a cat is of mice.
She's had an extra glass, I think. Are you quite comfortable, sir?"

"Quite," said Frederick, and put an end to the conversation by wishing
the detective good night.

"He's a plucky one," mused the detective, as he resumed his watch; "but
he's working for a prize worth winning."

The food in the basket was sufficient for one man's wants for nearly a
week, and Frederick, partaking of a little, went softly upstairs to the
drawing room. He took the precaution of locking the door, and, mounting
the table, waited for events.

He had not long to wait. At half-past one Richard Manx entered the room
in which Mr. Holdfast had been murdered.

Frederick did not instantly recognise him, his disguise was so perfect,
but when he removed his wig, the watcher saw his enemy, Pelham, before
him.

The wronged and persecuted man had schooled himself well. Though his
heart beat furiously and his blood grew hot, he suffered no sound to
escape him. He had fully made up his mind, in the event of Richard Manx
discovering a document, to steal upon him unaware, and wrest it from
him. He did not doubt his power to do as much; in physical strength he
was the match of three such men as Pelham. His chief anxiety, in the
event of anything being discovered, was that it should not be destroyed.

Richard Manx used no precaution in the method of entering the room,
except that he placed his candle upon the floor in such a way that its
reflection could not reach the window, which opened at the back of the
house. This lack of precaution was in itself a sufficient proof that his
search had been long continued, and was a proof also that he considered
himself safe in the deserted house.

He was evidently in a discontented mood; he looked around the room
sullenly and savagely, but in this expression Frederick detected a
certain helplessness and fear which denoted that he was ill at ease.
That he was growing tired of his task was clear, for he resumed it
with an impatience and a want of system which might have prevented
its successful accomplishment, even if he were on the threshold
of discovery. Frederick, from his point of observation, had an
uninterrupted view of his proceedings. He had brought with him a
quantity of tools, and by the aid of these he set to work removing the
flooring boards, with but little noise, one after another, searching
eagerly in the rubbish beneath. With no success, however. Every now and
then, as though tired of this part of his search, he rose, and examined
the furniture in the room, suspicious that some hiding place might have
escaped him. He muttered as he worked, but for a time his mutterings did
not reach Frederick's ears. After more than an hour's labour, he took
from a cupboard a bottle of spirits and a glass, and helped himself
liberally. Then, dirty and begrimed as he was, and with beads of
perspiration on his face, he sat down and consulted a pocket book, in
which he added up a number of figures. "Five hundred," he said in a low
tone, "seven-fifty, eight hundred, a thousand, twelve hundred, fourteen
hundred and twenty." He came to the end of his reckoning, and glared at
the figures as at a mortal enemy. Then from the same pocket-book he took
out a packet of bank notes, and counted them over till he reached the
total, fourteen hundred and twenty. Frederick held the true key to these
proceedings. The sum of fourteen hundred and twenty pounds represented
the whole of Mr. Pelham's wealth, the payment and reward of a life of
villainy, and perhaps of blood.

"It must be somewhere," muttered the man, replacing the book in his
pocket; "he wrote every day he was here. It was proved at the inquest.
What has he done with his infernal scribble? If it is found by a
stranger, and we are in the country, it will be death to us. Devil!
devil! devil!" and he struck at the table in his passion, and then,
alarmed at the sound, glared round with a terror-stricken face, with the
air of a criminal overtaken by justice.

His fears allayed, he worked on again at the boards of the floor, making
but slow progress. Three o'clock struck, and still he continued his
work, and still was watched by the son of the murdered man. Half-past
three--four--half-past four; and Richard Manx rose from his knees, and
gave up his task for the night. Many times during his search had he
drank from the bottle of spirits, but what he drank appeared to affect
him only through his tongue, which became more loquacious and less
guarded. Once more he counted his bank-notes, grudgingly, greedily, and
muttered:

"She shall give me five hundred to-day--this very morning; that will
make nineteen hundred and twenty--say eighteen hundred clear, to break
the bank at Monaco. If she likes to come with me, she can. I am sick of
this game; there's too much to lose. To-morrow night shall be my last
night here. I have searched every inch of this cursed room, and I throw
it up. It is a slave's work, not a gentleman's." He certainly looked
as little like a gentleman as any human being could, and his words
proclaimed the utter villainy of his nature. "There's too much danger in
it," he continued. "If the police were to take it in their heads to make
another examination of this house, or if that weak idiot, Frederick
Holdfast, were to turn up, I should find myself in the hole. And _she_
should, too; I'd make her suffer with me. A nice reward for all my
scheming in America! Well, it kept them apart--I can count that to my
credit. But for me, the old dotard and Frederick must have met. I owed
him one for the part he played in the Sydney Campbell affair in
Oxford--I owed him one, and I have paid it. And if I had him here, I'd
serve him as I served--" He did not conclude his sentence; a sudden
terror seized him, and he shook like a man in an ague. "I could have
sworn I heard a voice," he muttered. "Hush!" For a few moments he did
not move; his feet were transfixed to the ground. By a strong effort he
recovered himself, and a ghastly smile disfigured his face. "To-morrow
night shall be the last," he said! "I swear it! I'll commence to enjoy
my life again. This is not the only country in the world." And, shading
the light of his candle with his hand, he left the room.

Frederick Holdfast did not move from his post till he had given Richard
Manx ample time to reach his garret in the next house. Then he descended
with difficulty, for his limbs were cramped. As he stepped from the
table to the ground his foot slipped, and the table overbalanced, fell
with a crash on its side. He congratulated himself upon his forethought
in waiting till Richard Manx was out of hearing, but not knowing what
might be the consequences of the noise--for it might have disturbed the
inmates of either, or of both, the adjoining houses--he unlocked the
door, and made his way as quickly as he could, consistent with necessary
caution, to the basement, where in the course of another hour he sought
a little rest, with his revolver firmly clenched in his hand.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

MRS. HOLDFAST INSISTS UPON BECOMING AN ACTIVE PARTNER.


The following night--the night which Mr. Pelham had sworn should be
the last of his search, and the last upon which he would continue his
disguise as Richard Manx--this accomplished villain carried out his
intention of coming home to his garret in Mrs. Preedy's house much
earlier than usual. In fact, it was not more than half-past eight as he
turned one of the streets which branched into Great Porter Square. He
was in good spirits, despite that the night was as wretched and gloomy
as the most despondent mortal could maliciously--out of hatred for his
species--have desired. All day long the rain had continued without
intermission; the thoroughfares were in a deplorable condition of mud
and slush, and those persons whose avocations did not compel them to
be out in the streets, gladly availed themselves of the comforts of a
fireside at home. These are not the occasions, especially in a city so
crowded and selfish as London, when people are in the mood to be amiable
and obliging, and it was therefore the more remarkable that Richard
Manx, by no means a gracious being as a rule, should have walked to
his lodgings in a glad and pleasant frame of mind. The fact was, good
fortune had smiled upon him. He had had a long interview with Mrs.
Holdfast, who on this very day had come into possession of a large sum
of money, realised from certain of her late husband's securities--shares
in railway companies which had been delivered to her, as his sole heir
and executrix. It was, indeed, no less a sum than twelve thousand
pounds, and of this she had, in compliance with Mr. Pelham's urgent
demands, given him a cheque for fifteen hundred pounds, the exact sum,
as he declared, necessary to clear himself from pressing debts and
liabilities. This cheque he had forthwith converted into Bank of England
notes, and they were safe in his pocket, with his other savings, with
which he intended to make a large fortune at Monaco. Mrs. Holdfast had
also consented to sell off her London house, and accompany him on a tour
of pleasure. She, as well as he, was tired of the humdrum days; she
sighed for excitement and adventure; the pleasure grounds of Europe
were open to her, and now that she was a widow, and still young and
beautiful, and now that the terrible anxieties of the past twelve months
were at an end, she determined to enjoy her life as such a pretty woman
should. There was another reason why she wished to get away from London,
and indeed from England altogether, for a while. Since little Fanny had
accosted her by the name of Grace, she did not feel herself safe. There
was danger in the mere utterance of the name, and there was security in
absence from spots in which other persons, more cunning than a simple
child like Fanny, might by some chance recognise her. She thought it
would be as well to take the child with her; Fanny was a bright, clever
little creature, and might prove useful, and if she got tired of her, it
would be easy to lose her on the Continent, or place her in a situation
where her babbling, if she were inclined to babble, could do no harm.

Mr. Pelham had visited her at noon in a spirit the reverse of that in
which he left her. She had been most amiable and vivacious, and fell in
joyfully with his plans, when he had expected her to be obstinate and
ill-tempered, and inclined to thwart him. Then, he had intended to ask
her for a cheque for five hundred pounds, and improving the opportunity,
had obtained fifteen hundred. No wonder that he sang a little song to
himself as he turned into Great Porter Square. Had a beggar solicited
charity from him he might have obtained a small piece of silver, but
it is the misfortune of human affairs that fitting opposites are
rarely brought into fortunate conjunction, and the beggar not being
forthcoming, Richard Manx's charitable spell had no opportunity of
airing itself. He was within a few doors of his lodging-house when a
woman, who had walked quickly after him, and was out of breath with the
exertion, laid her hand on his arm, and wished him good evening.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XL.

MRS. HOLDFAST INSISTS UPON BECOMING AN ACTIVE PARTNER--(CONTINUED).


Richard Manx, as a man of gallantry, was generally ready for any
adventure with the fair sex which offered itself, but on the present
occasion, despite his disposition to be amiable, he shrank within
himself at being thus suddenly accosted. The intrusion of an unexpected
voice--which at the moment he did not recognise--upon his thoughts awoke
him to a sense of danger. He therefore walked on without replying,
shaking the woman's hand from his arm; but was almost immediately
brought to a standstill by the sound of the woman's steps hurrying after
him.

She wore a cloak, with a hood to it, which was thrown over her head; in
her haste the hood fell back, and her fair face, no longer hidden, shone
out from masses of light hair, in the disorder of which was a certain
picturesqueness which heightened the effect of her beauty. As her hood
fell back, Richard Manx turned and recognised her.

It was Mrs. Holdfast, the widow of the murdered man.

He uttered an exclamation of alarm, and with a frightened look around,
pulled the hood over her head to hide her face.

"You mad woman!" he exclaimed; "do you want to ruin us? What brings you
here?" Then a sudden thought drove all the blood from his face. "Has
anything happened?" he asked, in a whisper.

She laughed at his agitation. "Nothing has happened," she replied,
"except that I am worn out with sameness."

"Then what in the devil's name brings you here?" he asked again.

"For shame, Pelham," she said, lightly, "to be so rude to a lady! What
brings me here? I have told you. I am worn out with sameness. Sitting
down with nothing to do, without excitement, in a house as dull and
quiet as a doll's cradle, doesn't suit me. I was not cut out for that
sort of life!"

"You could have waited a little," he grumbled, somewhat reconciled to
find that they were not being observed; "you were sure of another sort
of life presently."

"I'll have it, thought I to myself, without waiting," she said,
recklessly, "and I feel better already. Running away from my doll's
cradle without preparation, with an idea in my head I am going to carry
out, has put new life into me. My blood isn't creeping through my veins;
it is dancing, and I am alive once more. Really now I feel as if I
should like to waltz with you round the Square!"

"Are you quite mad?" he cried, holding her still by force, but unable to
refrain from admiration of her wild flow of spirits. "We have but a few
hours to wait. Can't you content yourself for a little while? What is
this insane idea of yours which you are going to carry out!"

"To spend the evening with you, my dear," she replied gaily.

"Where?"

"In Great Porter Square. Where else?"

While this conversation was proceeding, he had led her in an opposite
direction from the house in which he lodged, and they were now on the
other side of the Square.

"Now I am sure you are mad," he said. "Do you know what I have to do
to-night?"

"No," she replied, "and I am curious to know."

"I keep it to myself; but you will hear of it, and when you do you will
laugh. Shall I leave behind me a danger hanging over my head--and yours?
A secret that one day may be discovered, and bring ruin and death to
me--and you? No, no; they make a mistake in the mettle of Dick Pelham
if they think he is going to leave a trap-door open for himself to fall
into."

"I should fall also, Pelham!" she said half-questioningly.

"Why, yes; you would come down with me. It couldn't be helped, I fear.
I have a kind of dog-in-the-manger feeling for you. If I can't have you
myself, I'll not leave you to another man."

"It _can't_ be helped, I suppose," she said, shrugging her shoulders;
"but it doesn't matter to me so long as I am enjoying myself."

"Very well, then," said he, in a decided tone; "go home now, and get
your trinkets and dresses in order, for by to-day week we'll be out of
this dull hole. We'll live where the sun shines for the future. Hurry
now, and off with you. I have a serious night's work before me."

"I will help you in it," she said, in a tone as decided as his own. "It
isn't a bit of use bullying, Pelham. I've made up my mind. I haven't
seen your room in No. 118, and I intend to see it. I have a right to,
haven't I? The wonder is I have kept away so long; and this is the last
night I shall have the chance. I was curious before, but I'm a thousand
times more curious now, and if you were to talk all night you wouldn't
put me off. You are going to do something bold--all the better; I'll be
there to see, and I dare say I can be of assistance to you. We are in
partnership, and I insist upon being an active partner. How do I know
but that you have been deceiving me all this while?"

"In what way?" he demanded fiercely.

"I will make sure," she said, "that you haven't a pretty girl hidden
in that garret of yours, and that you don't want to run away with her
instead of me?"

"Jealous!" he cried, with a gratified laugh; "after telling me a dozen
times lately that you hated the sight of me!"

"That's a woman's privilege. If you don't understand us by this time, it
is too late for you to begin to learn. Pelham, I am coming up with you."

"You are determined?"

"As ever a woman was in this world. If you run from me now, and enter
the house without me, I'll follow you, and knock at the door, and
inquire for Mr. Richard Manx; and if they ask me who I am, I'll say I
am _Mrs._ Richard Manx."

"I believe you would," he said, looking down into her face, and not
knowing whether to feel angry or pleased.

"I would, as truly as I am a woman."

"There's no help for it, then," he said; "but I don't know how to get
you into the house without being observed."

"Nothing easier. All the time we've been talking I haven't seen
half-a-dozen people. Choose a moment when nobody's about; open the door
quickly, and I'll slip in like an eel. Before you shut the door, I'll be
at the top of the house."

"Let me warn you once more; there is danger."

"All the better; there's excitement in danger."

"And if I don't find what I've been hunting for these weeks past, I
intend to carry out a desperate design, which if successful--and it
must be; I'll make it so--will place us in a position of perfect
safety."

"Bravo, Pelham; I never thought you had so much pluck. I will help
you in everything you have to do. Now let us get into the house. I am
drenched through. You can make a fire, I suppose."

He cautioned and instructed her how to proceed, and they walked to
No. 118, he leading, and she but a step or two behind. Seeing no person
near, he opened the door with one turn of the key, and she glided
rapidly past him, and was on the stairs, and really nearly at the top of
the house, feeling her way along the balustrades, before he was up the
first flight. Safely within the miserable room he had hired, he turned
the key, and lighted a candle; then, pointing to wood and coals, he
motioned her to make a fire. The stove was so small she could not help
laughing at it, but he whispered to her savagely to stop her merriment,
and not to utter a sound that could be heard outside the room. The fire
lighted, she sat before it, and dried her clothes as well as she could,
while he busied himself about the room. Then he sat down by her side,
and explained his plans. As long as suspicion could be averted from
them, and as long as they were sure that no document written by Mr.
Holdfast between the date of his taking lodgings in No. 119 Great Porter
Square, and the date of his death, could be produced against them--so
long were they safe. Suspicion was averted from them, as they believed,
and they had every reason to believe that the murder would take its
place, nay, had already taken its place, upon the list of monstrous
crimes, the mystery of which would never be brought to light. Their only
danger, then, lay in the probable discovery of the supposed document for
which Pelham, as Richard Manx, had so long been searching. From what had
been made known by the press and the police of Mr. Holdfast's movements
after his taking up his residence in No. 119, and from what they
themselves knew, it was almost impossible that such a document, if it
had existence, could have been taken out of the house. Pelham had sought
for it unsuccessfully. What then, remained to be done for safety? To set
fire to the house in which it was hidden, to burn it to the ground, and
thus blot out from existence all knowledge of their crime.

This was Pelham's desperate plan, and this deed it was he intended to
perpetrate to-night. For a few hours longer he would search the room in
which Mr. Holdfast was murdered, and then, everything being prepared to
prevent failure, he would fire the house, and in the confusion make his
escape, and disappear for ever from the neighbourhood. Mrs. Holdfast's
unexpected appearance on the scene complicated matters--the chief
difficulty being how to get her away, during the confusion produced by
the fire, without being observed. But when, unwillingly, he had given
an enforced consent to her wild whim of keeping in his company on this
eventful night, he had thought of a way to overcome the difficulty. In
her woman's dress, and with her attractive face, he could scarcely hope
that she would escape observation; but he had in his room a spare suit
of his own clothes, in which she could disguise herself, and with her
face and hands blackened, and her hair securely fastened and hidden
beneath a soft felt wideawake hat which hung in his garret, he had no
fear that she would be discovered.

She entered into his plans with eagerness, and the adventure in which
she was engaged imparted a heightened colour to her face and a deeper
brilliancy to her eyes. As she leant towards the fire, with the
reflection of its ruddy glow in her features, an uninformed man, gazing
at her only for a moment, would have carried away with him a picture
of beauty and innocence so enduring that his thoughts would often have
wandered to it.

"Here are your clothes," said Pelham; "when we are ready I will mount to
the roof, and wait till you are dressed. Then I will come and assist you
up. I have two or three journeys to make to the next house before we
re-commence the search. See what I have here."

He unlocked the box in the corner which Becky had vainly tried to
open, and took from it a tin can filled with pitch, two small cans of
inflammable oil, and a packet of gunpowder.

"These will make the old place blaze," he said, laughing. "It will be a
good job done if all Great Porter Square is burnt down. The landlady of
this house ought to pay me a per-centage upon her insurance. The fire
will be the making of her."

"When do we begin?" asked Grace.

"Sooner than usual," he replied. "At about half-past ten. The night is
so bad that the Square will be pretty well deserted; and there is no one
in this house to disturb us."

He did not neglect the precaution of going to the door occasionally
and listening, but he saw and heard nothing to alarm him. Exactly at
half-past ten he bade Grace dress as quickly as possible in the suit of
his clothes, and to disguise herself to the best of her ability. Her
own woman's dress she was to tie up in a bundle and bring with her into
the next house. He mounted to the roof, and she handed him the cans and
the packet which were to ensure the destruction of No. 119. Then she
proceeded to disguise herself.

It was a task exactly to her taste. She took the greatest pleasure in
making herself look as much as possible like a young man, and as she
gazed at herself in the broken bit of looking-glass fastened to the
wall, she said aloud,

"Upon my word, Gracie, you make a very pretty boy!"

She wore a great many trinkets, which she wrapped in paper, and put into
her pockets, but the novelty of her disguise, and the inconvenient space
in which she effected it, caused her to drop two of these, a ring and an
earring, and although she searched the floor carefully, she could not
find them. Her hair she twisted into a tight knot at the top of her
head, and the wideawake completely covered it. Richard Manx made his
appearance at the trap-door above, and asked if she was ready. She
answered that she was, and he assisted her up, lifting her, indeed,
almost bodily from the chairs upon which she stood.

"What a little lump of weakness you are!" he exclaimed. "You can't weigh
above a hundred pounds."

Carefully he led her over the roof, and down the trap-door, into
the next house. Standing in the dark with him in the garret of this
tenement, he felt that she trembled.

"If you are going to show the white feather," he whispered, "you had
better turn back. There is time even now."

Little did she imagine how much hung upon the opportunity offered her.
She refused it, saying that she had experienced a slight chill, and
that she would go on; so he led her, white-faced now and shaking in
every limb, down the stairs to the room in which her husband had been
murdered.

Its appearance, while it bewildered, afforded her relief. Had it been in
order, as she had seen it when her husband had occupied it, she could
not have controlled her agitation; but it was so torn up, the work of
destruction had been so wanton, that she could scarcely recognise it as
the same room.

"Have you any brandy, Pelham?" she asked, careful, as he had directed
her, not to raise her voice.

He had a bottle with him, and he gave her some in a glass, upon which
her courage returned, and she shook her head defiantly, as much as to
say, "Who cares?"

"I haven't been idle, you see," said Pelham, pointing around. "Amuse
yourself while I do what is necessary."

What was "necessary" was the villainous work of scattering the gunpowder
about, disposing of the pitch, and pouring the oil upon the walls and
flooring of the passage. At the conclusion of this part of his scheme
there was still a great deal of inflammable material left, and these
he placed aside, the pitch and the oil in the tins, and the gunpowder,
loose, in its paper packet, in the room in which he was at work.

"Are you sure there is no one but ourselves in the house?" asked Grace.

"Listen for yourself," replied Pelham. "If you like you can go
downstairs and look. I'll ensure you against anything but ghosts and
fire."

She shuddered, and, to divert her thoughts, endeavoured to take a
practical interest in the search for the hidden document. It was
difficult, in the state of the room, to move about, and she soon grew
wearied. She threw herself upon the bed, and longed impatiently for the
time when the crowning touch would be given to the wicked work in which
she had insisted upon becoming an active partner.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XLI.

FREDERICK HOLDFAST MAKES THE DISCOVERY.


Frederick Holdfast slept until late in the morning. Awaking, he looked
at his watch, which marked the hour of eleven. He did not begrudge the
time spent in sleep. It had refreshed and strengthened him, and he knew
it would not be prudent on his part to work during the day in any room
in which he would run the risk of being observed by the neighbours. He
had not been disturbed; when he awoke his revolver was in his hand, and
perfect stillness reigned throughout the house.

In his state of mind inaction was a torture to him, and he could not
content himself with sitting idly down. Imprisoned as it were, while
daylight lasted, to the basement, into the rooms in which passers-by in
the Square above could not peer, he resolved to examine carefully every
inch of the floor and walls in the kitchen and passage. The shutters
of the area-windows were closed, and darkness prevailed. His lantern,
therefore, served him in as good stead by day as it had done by night;
he trimmed the lamp carefully, and prepared for what he had no hope
would be anything but a fruitless task. He only undertook it, indeed,
for the purpose of occupying the time during which he was shut out from
the upper part of the house, to the windows in which there were no
shutters. It comforted him to think that his dear girl was within a
short distance of him; a few inches of wall separated them, and they
were thinking of each other, praying for each other.

He commenced in the passage, tracking the marks of his father's dying
steps upon the floor, and of his hands upon the walls. Inclined as he
was to the closest examination, his attention was arrested by a slight
scratch upon the wall, which he found repeated, both above and below,
wherever his father had rested his hand for support in his descent to
the kitchen. The scratch was very slight, and was not to be found upon
any part of the wall which the dying man had not touched with his hand.
The fading stains within which these scratches were observable appeared
to have been made by a clenched hand; the marks of the knuckles could be
traced. The inference Frederick Holdfast drew from these signs was that
his father had a distinct motive in keeping his hand closed, and that
the hand held something he wanted to deposit in safe keeping before life
left his poor wounded body. It was for this reason, then, Frederick
argued, following out the train of thought, as much as for any other,
that the mortally-wounded man had, in his death-agony, made his way to
the kitchen, where he believed the servant was asleep. In her hands he
would place the treasure his clenched hand guarded, and, that supreme
effort accomplished, he would then be content to die, comforted by the
thought that he left behind him a clue by which the innocent might be
saved and the guilty punished. What was this treasure which had been so
carefully guarded by a man who had but a few moments to live? He had
been unable to place it in the safe possession of a friend to justice.
Had it been found by one whose interest it was to conceal it, or had
it escaped all eyes, to be discovered by the son he had unwittingly
wronged? This last surmise was scarcely needed by Frederick to prompt
him to search in every unlikely nook and cranny in the passage and
stairs; but when he raised the light to the kitchen door, and saw there
the fatal hand-mark, and with it the almost imperceptible scratch
repeated, he knew that he had wasted his time, and that whatever it was
his father had held in his hand he had carried into the kitchen with
him. To this room, therefore, he confined his search, and after being
occupied in it for hours--until, indeed, he heard the church clock
strike five--was about to give it up in despair, when his eyes fell upon
what looked like a small piece of metal, firmly imbedded in a crevice
of the floor. It had evidently been trodden into the crevice by heavy
boots, and it was with difficulty Frederick dug it out. It proved to be
a key, small enough for a drawer in a desk.

Frederick immediately went into the passage to ascertain whether he was
right in his idea that the scratches had been produced by this key, and
holding it between his knuckles, as his father might have done, and
placing his hand upon the wall, he was satisfied of its probability. It
was not strange that an object so small had escaped the notice of the
police or the people in the house. As the dying man fell to the ground,
the key may have been struck out of his hand by the shock, and being at
some distance from the body, had been trodden down into the crevice by
the policeman's feet. After that, nothing but such a minute examination
as Frederick had carried out could have brought it to light.

Quick as his eager thought would allow him, Frederick followed his
train of argument in logical sequence. It was this key which his father
wished to place in the servant's hands before he died; it was this key
which was to unravel the mystery of his life and death in No. 119
Great Porter Square. The drawer of the desk which the key would unlock
contained the record which would make all things clear. It had been
in the house; the furniture had not been removed; it was still in the
house. But not in the room occupied by his father. If it were there,
Pelham would have been certain to have found it. In that room every lock
had been forced, every scrap of paper examined. No!--The document had
been placed in another room for safety. The murdered man, acquainted
with the character of the persons who had brought disgrace upon him,
had taken the precaution to secure his written thoughts and wishes from
their prying eyes. Mr. Pelham was working on a wrong scent; his labour
had been thrown away. Frederick knew, from the inquiries of the
detective in his employ, that the adjoining room to that his father had
occupied--the room from which he had, on the previous night, watched the
proceedings of his father's murderer (for upon that point now Frederick
was morally convinced)--had, during the last four days of his father's
tenancy, been vacant. What more likely than that this very room
contained a drawer which the key would fit?

He trembled with eagerness, feeling that he was on the brink of
discovery, and the shock of these mental revelations, which a few
minutes would see verified, was so great that a faintness stole over
his senses. Then he remembered that he had partaken of but little food
during the day. He knew not what was before him in the night to come; he
needed all his strength.

He sat down resolutely, curbing his impatience, and ate and drank his
fill. When he had finished his meal, he felt that he had acted well and
with prudence. He was ready now for any emergency, equal to any effort.

It was by this time dark, and he could move into the upper part of the
house with comparative safety. All day long the rain had been plashing
into the area with a dismal sound; the dreariness of the weather and the
dreariness of the house would have daunted any man who had not a serious
purpose to sustain him. Frederick had held no further communication with
the detective; during the day it was impracticable. But it had been
arranged between them that when night came, the detective, if he had
anything of importance to communicate, should drop a letter into the
area, of course at such time and in such a way as should afford no
chance of detection. Before going upstairs with his precious key,
Frederick cautiously opened the door which led into the area, and saw
that a small packet of brown paper had been dropped during the day. He
picked it up and opened it; there was a stone inside, and round the
stone a sheet of note paper, on which was written, in the detective's
handwriting:

  "Mrs. H. has received to-day a large sum of money. Her friend, Mr.
  P., was with her for nearly two hours. Upon leaving her house he
  drove to the City and cashed a cheque for fifteen hundred pounds. He
  was in high spirits. There is something in the wind; it looks as if
  they are making preparations to flit. Mrs. H. is getting together as
  much ready money as she can lay her hands on. I have no doubt she
  and Mr. P. have arranged to-day to go away together. Nothing further
  to say on that head. Your young lady friend in No. 118, Becky, is
  quite safe, but she looks anxious. On your account, I guess. Her
  little friend, Fanny, is a brick. We shall be on the watch all night
  in the Square. If you are in want of help, use your whistle."

Not being in want of help at present, Frederick destroyed the letter,
and went upstairs to the first floor. Opening the door of the room
his father had occupied, he saw that no person had entered it during
the day; everything was as Pelham had left it early in the morning.
Frederick, by the light of his lantern, looked around for drawer or
desk. A chest of drawers was there, unlocked and empty; a desk also,
which had been broken open, and which the key he had found would not
fit. As he left the room he saw, lying in a corner of the wall, a large
key. It was the key of his father's room. He put it in the lock, and it
turned easily.

"Pelham would be astonished to-night," he thought, "if, when he came, he
found the door locked against him. But that would be putting him on his
guard. I will open the trap for him instead of closing it. Murderer!
Your hour is approaching!"

He unlocked the door, and put the key in his pocket, with no distinct
intention, but with an idea that it might in some way prove useful.
When in his thought the unspoken words came to his mind, "I will
open the trap for him instead of closing it," he had not the dimmest
comprehension of their awful significance, or of the fearful manner in
which they were to be verified.

He entered the adjoining room in which he had kept his long and painful
watch on the previous night. In the room was a sideboard, and to this he
first directed his attention. The key he had found in the kitchen was
too small for either of the sideboards, and as they were locked, he
forced them open. There was nothing inside but some mouldy biscuits and
a couple of old-fashioned decanters, with dregs of wine in them. He felt
about for secret drawers, but found none. A cupboard next attracted his
attention, and he searched it carefully. It contained plates and wine
glasses, a shell box and a shell caddy, with views of Margate on them.
Both were open, and he discovered nothing on the shelves which was
likely to bring his search to a successful issue. Before proceeding
further he thought--in case Pelham should take it into his head to
commence his work early on this which he declared should be his last
night in No. 119--it would be well to replace the table which had fallen
over when he stepped from it. He raised it carefully and replaced it on
its carved feet. It was a round table of Spanish mahogany, and was a
contrast to the other furniture in the room, being old-fashioned and of
ancient make. As he raised it, one of the lower surfaces upon which he
placed his hand shifted slightly, and the thought flashed through his
mind that there might be a drawer beneath. He stooped and looked upward,
and saw that his impression was a correct one. A drawer was there,
evidently intended as a secret drawer; it was locked. With trembling
hands he tried the key. It fitted the lock, turned, and the drawer was
open--and there, beneath his eyes, were some sheets of folio paper, upon
which he recognised his dead father's handwriting.

He drew forth the sheets and rapidly scanned them. They were in the
form of a diary, and contained the record of his father's last days, or
perhaps his last hours. Tears filled his eyes as he gazed at the beloved
memorial of a dear one, from whose heart he had been torn by the foulest
treachery. He dashed the tears away. No time now for grief; a sterner
duty than that of mourning for the dead was before him. In his hands
he held the vindication of his good name, and, he hoped, the means of
bringing the guilty to punishment. He must to work at once, and read the
words the dead had written for him. He went down to the kitchen, and,
setting the door open so that no sound made in the house should escape
his ears, commenced the perusal of his murdered father's diary.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XLII.

MR. HOLDFAST'S DIARY.


Tuesday, _1st July_.--I am once more in London, after a long absence
and much wandering in America, where I sought in vain for my dear son,
Frederick, the son I wronged and thrust from my house. Bitterly have I
repented of my error, and bitterly am I punished for it.

Almost at the last moment, in New York, a hope of success was held out
to me. Returning to my hotel there from New Orleans, in which city,
from information conveyed to me in a letter from a stranger, I hoped
to find Frederick, I was informed that a gentleman had called to see
me. The description given to me of this gentleman--who, the manager
of the hotel informed me, appeared to be in by no means prosperous
circumstances--left no doubt in my mind that it was my son. He had,
then, received the letters I sent to him, directed to the New York
Post-office, and had at once sought me out. Unhappy chance that caused
me to be absent when he called! I must have been a thousand miles away
at the time, following a false scent supplied by a stranger. It has
occurred to me within these last few days, during my voyage home, that
an enemy may have been at work in America to prevent a meeting between
me and my son. There is no meanness, no wickedness, no baseness, to
which the wretched woman who calls me husband, and her paramour, would
not stoop. And for the cunning necessary to keep me and my son apart
from each other, have I not had sufficient proof that they are capable
of it? Strange that the suspicion did not occur to me in America! Now
that--perhaps too late--it presents itself, it comes upon me with
singular force. The letter, written to me by a stranger, which drove
me so far from New York on a fruitless errand, was not the only one
I received conveying to me, gratuitously, information which retarded
instead of assisting me in my purpose. They were all in different
handwriting, it is true, but may they not have been written by one man?
Even were it otherwise, there is as little difficulty in New York as
there is in London in obtaining agents to assist in the carrying out of
any villainous design. But now my mind is set upon this suspicion of
systematic deceit, I am of the opinion that but one enemy was engaged
in it, and that that enemy is the scoundrel Pelham, my wretched wife's
accomplice. If it be so, he must have followed me to America, and
watched my movements, cunningly misdirecting them when he deemed it
necessary. Working against such an enemy is working in the dark. It is
my unhappy fate that, alone, I have not the courage to publicly proclaim
my disgrace. I should die under the shame of it. With my son by my side
I might be able, were no other way open for a settlement, to nerve
myself to any effort he might advise. Without him I am powerless, and
indeed, were a public exposure forced upon me--were I certain that by no
other possible means could I rid myself of this infamous woman--my son's
evidence would be necessary to complete the case against her. But before
this terrible necessity is made clear to me, every means must be adopted
to settle the unhappy affair in a private manner. Never again could I
hold up my head and meet the gaze of my fellow-man were I to hear my
name and the shameful secrets of my home shouted out in the streets by
hawkers of public news. My life would be blasted indeed were I to see my
dishonour publicly proclaimed in the newspaper bills that are displayed
at every railway station in the kingdom. Ah, then the son who renounced
my name, driven to it by my folly, my incredulousness, my injustice,
might deem himself fortunate that he had done so before it was dragged
into the gutters, and covered with ignominy!

I waited impatiently in my New York hotel for my son to make a second
call, but to my great disappointment he did not again appear. My
letters, which he must have received, were brief, but they explained
my anxiety to see him and to be reconciled with him. He could not have
followed me to New Orleans, for I had taken the precaution so to arrange
my route as not to afford any stranger a clue to my destination. In this
I was actuated by my overpowering desire to keep my family affairs from
public gaze--a more difficult matter in America, where the newspaper
interviewer appears to be ubiquitous, than it is in any other country
in the world. On the twelfth day of my last stay in the hotel, exactly
three weeks ago, I received news which determined me to return
immediately to England. The news was startling and overwhelming, and
added another shame to that which was already weighing me down. My
wife had given birth to a child. This child is not mine. Imperative,
therefore, was the necessity of bringing the shameful matter to an end
without delay. I took passage to Liverpool in the "Germanic," and before
I left New York I placed in the hands of the manager of the hotel a
letter for my son, to be given to him privately, in case he should call.
The letter contained bank notes for £200 and a sight draft for £500,
payable to bearer, and was to the effect that Frederick was to follow
me home by the earliest possible opportunity. I instructed him in the
letter to take his passage to Liverpool, and on his arrival there to
inquire at the post office for a letter, which I intended should enable
him to come to me at once. It is because these proceedings have, up to
the present time, not led to a successful result, and because of the
suspicion that has obtained a firm hold in my mind of some cunning
underhand plotting to prevent my son from meeting me, that I think it
best to keep a record of what has been done and of what is likely to
take place.

The "Germanic" made a rapid passage, and on the day of my arrival in
Liverpool I wrote and sent to the post-office a letter for my son,
telling him to come to the Adelphi Hotel, where I awaited him. I
remained in Liverpool six days, in the hope of seeing my son, and my
hope has not been fulfilled. Then I came on to London, travelling by a
night train. Determining that my presence in the City shall be known
only to my son and my wife, at least for a few days, which time I shall
employ in the endeavour to come to a private arrangement with the woman
who has dishonoured me, I looked about for a lodging in a neighbourhood
where it is likely the movements of a stranger may not be subjected to
curious inquiry. Within half-a-mile from the railway terminus is Great
Porter Square, quiet and retired; it appears to be the very locality I
desire. The houses in this quiet square are mostly lodging-houses, the
landlords and landladies of which are more anxious about their rent than
about the characters of their tenants. In such a neighbourhood men and
women are doubtless in the habit of coming and going, of appearing and
disappearing, without exciting curiosity. Cards of rooms to let were in
a great many windows, and I selected a house, No. 119, and found, upon
inquiry, that I could have a bed-room on the first-floor, or one on the
second. I took the bedroom on the first-floor, which is at the back of
the house, and the landlady informed me that by the end of the week I
could have the adjoining room, the windows of which front the Square, as
the present occupant had given notice to leave. But the back room will
probably suit my purpose for a while. I avoided giving the landlady my
name by paying her a month's rent in advance, with which she appears
perfectly satisfied.

The moment I took possession of my room I wrote two letters, one to my
son at the Liverpool post-office, the other to my wife. In my letter to
Frederick I simply said that I am to be found for a few days at No. 119,
Great Porter Square, and I desired him to hasten to me at once, without
communicating with any person. I have in my previous letters impressed
upon him the importance of secrecy. My letter to my wife also contained
my address. I told her that I have arrived in London and that I am
willing to come to an arrangement with her which will no doubt satisfy
her, and which will keep our affairs from scandal-mongers. I requested
her to call upon me at eleven o'clock to-morrow morning. Until that
hour, therefore, I have nothing to do. The time will hang heavily, and
my only relief is in this diary.

I cannot read; I cannot sleep. Not alone the shamefulness of my
position, but the injustice I inflicted upon my son, weighs upon my
spirits. If he were with me all would be as well with me as it is
possible to be. If he were here, and I could ask his forgiveness, and
thus absolve him from the solemn oath I compelled him to take, I should
feel strong once more, and equal to the awful crisis. In spirit now, my
son, I ask your forgiveness most humbly. The sufferings I inflicted upon
you are, I well know--for certain qualities in my nature are implanted
in yours--irremediable; but all that a repentant father can do I will
do. Forgive me, Frederick, for my blindness. I have wronged not only
you, but the memory of your dear mother. It appears to me as if my mad
act in allying myself with a creature so base has cast even upon her
pure soul a shadow of dishonour.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Wednesday, 2nd July._--She has been here, and is gone. Our interview
was a long one, and I apply myself now to a description of what passed
between us, setting down simply that which is important to the momentous
issue before me. It is the only way in which I can relieve the tedium of
the dull, weary hours I am condemned to pass alone.

She came into the room, closely veiled, and stood with her back against
the closed door. She was calm and self-possessed. I trembled so that I
could scarcely stand.

"Who am I?" she asked.

I heard the question with amazement, not at the words, but at the joyous
tone in which it was asked. I did not answer, and she threw up her
veil, and looked at me with eyes and face sparkling with animation and
delight. It was as though she was playing a part in a masquerade. Never
had I seen her look so well. No trace of anxiety or disquietude was
observable in her. She was the very picture of joyous health and beauty,
an embodiment of apparent innocence and peace of mind. But in my eyes
she was no longer beautiful; I saw her soul through the mask she
presents to the world, and I knew that it was corrupt and vile.

She advanced to me with her arms stretched forward to embrace me, but I
motioned her back sternly, and she stood still and looked at me with a
smile on her lips.

"What!" she exclaimed. "After this long absence, to refuse to kiss me!
Ah, you are trying me, I see. You have not the heart to say you do not
love me!"

I pointed to the door, and said:

"It will be best for both of us that our interview shall not be
interrupted. In such houses as this the servants have an awkward habit
of sometimes opening the doors unawares."

She took the hint, and locked the door.

"Now, my dear," she said, removing her hat and cloak, "we are quite
alone--quite, quite alone! You see I am not afraid of you. I thought
you were only playing with my feelings when you refused to embrace me.
What, you will not kiss me even now? You have indeed grown cold and
hard-hearted. You were not so once, in the sweet days, not so long
ago, of our first acquaintanceship. And how old you have grown--quite
haggard! My dear, gentlemen should not run away from their wives. This
should be a lesson to you. I hope it will be--with all my heart I hope
it will be; indeed, indeed I do! Oh, how I have suffered while you have
been away! And never to send me a letter--not a single line to relieve
my anxiety. It was cruel of you--too, too cruel! I have had the most
horrible dreams of you. I dreamt you were ill, and I could not get to
you--that you were in danger, and I could not help you--that you were
dead, without as much as saying good-bye to your fond, faithful wife! It
was horrible, horrible! Really, my dear, it would be a proper punishment
if I refused ever to speak another word to you."

"Have you done with your trifling?" I asked.

"Trifling!" she cried. "You have been absent from me and your home for
months, without sending me one message of affection, and now that you
return to London suddenly, and take up your lodging in a mean house like
this, and I am pouring my heart out at your feet, you call it trifling!
Take care, my dear--you may try my patience too far!"

"You may try mine too far," I retorted. "Cast aside, if it is possible,
your false airs and affectations, and let us talk as business people in
a business way."

"It is for business, then," she said, still smiling in my face, "and not
for love, you summoned me here?"

"There is no question of love between us," I replied, and was about to
proceed when she interrupted me.

"You will force me to be as cold and hard-hearted as yourself. The last
time we were together--alone, as we are now--yes, alone, for you dared
not, you dare not, speak in the presence of a third party as you spoke
to me then!--you brought against me a number of false accusations, and
vowed that you would never live with me again. If I had been a man I
would have killed you--do you hear? I would have killed you, and the
words you addressed to me should have been the last you would ever have
spoken. But you took advantage of my weakness, and you insulted me as no
woman in the world was ever insulted. Is it to insult me again that you
have sent for me now to meet you here alone?"

It pleased me that she should adopt this tone. I could cope with her
better when she showed me her true nature. "It is not of the past that
I wish to speak," I said, calmly, "it is of the future."

"But the past must be spoken of," she rejoined vehemently, "and shall
be."

"If you are determined, it must be so. You will find me very forbearing.
My only wish is to put an end to this miserable business for once and
for ever!"

"To put an end to _me_, perhaps," she cried, thrusting her face close to
mine in contemptuous defiance, "for once and for ever!"

"At all events," I said, "so far as my own life is concerned. I wish to
shut you out from my life from this time forth."

"How do you propose to do that?" she asked.

"By paying you for it," I replied, shortly.

"You will have to bid high."

"I am prepared to bid high."

"There is not only the question of living," she said, with a dark look,
"there is the question of a woman's feelings to be considered. You
brought against me a charge of unfaithfulness--you accused me of being a
vile woman, of low character and low morals. Do you still believe it?"

"I still believe it," I replied.

"How brutally manly it is of you to be so plain and concise! I can thank
you, at least, for your frankness, liar as you are! You accused me of
trumping up a designing untrue story of my life when I first met you,
for the purpose of winning your sympathy. Do you still believe it?"

"I still believe it."

"How can I thank you? I know how I could repay you if I were a man. It
is fortunate for you that I am not. You accused me of setting a snare
for your son, who knew the true particulars of my life, you said, and
who wished to remove the shame I had brought upon your name. My memory
is not bad, is it? Do you still believe all this?"

"I still believe it!"

I think if she could have stabbed or poisoned me, and caused me to die
at that moment, she would not have spared me.

"Of course," she said, "you have seen your son."

"To my grief," I replied, "I have not. I should be happier if I could
see him and ask his forgiveness for the injustice I have done him."

"The injustice you have done him through me?"

"Yes, through you."

"It is curious, too, that you have not met him," she said, and I noticed
that she was secretly watching my face as she spoke: "you are such a
good business man, and you went to America and remained there so long in
the hope of finding him."

"How do you know that?" I inquired. "How do you know, indeed, that I
have been in America all the time I have been absent from England?"

My questions warned her that she had made a mistake.

"People will talk," she said; "you don't suppose that I have kept my
mouth closed, or that other persons have kept theirs, for months,
because you took it into your head to run away from me. Upon my word, I
was advised by friends to go to a magistrate, and lay the case before
him."

"You are as good in business matters as I am; in some matters better.
You followed your own advice instead of the advice of others, and you
did not go to a magistrate. I know your reason."

"What was my reason?"

"That you, like myself, have no wish to drag our private affairs before
the public. Once in the courts you will find it difficult to escape
them; to lay your life and character bare to official gaze would not
suit you. No, I know how far I am compromised, and I know how far you
will go."

"You think you know."

"I am sure I know."

All at once she changed her tone. "I am bound to give way to you," she
said, with an assumption of humility, "for you are my husband. I have no
wish to irritate you, or to unsettle your mind more than it is already
unsettled. There are women who, for less than you have said, for less
than you have done, would have put you into a private madhouse. The
delusions you have been under are very serious to me, but I will bear
them as long as I can. If I were to tell any official, any doctor, that,
returning home after a long absence, you never once inquired for your
child, born during your absence, it would be a sufficient proof of your
insanity."

"I heard in New York that you had a child," I said, "and it brought me
home earlier than I had intended."

"Kind, thoughtful husband," she murmured, vindictively.

"I would have avoided the subject," I said; "I would avoid it now.
Shameless woman! Not upon the head of an innocent child, of whom I am
not the father, do I desire to visit the sin of the mother. It would
have become you better--if any suggestion that is good and modest in
woman could occur to you--to have omitted all mention of your child.
Listen now to me with your best attention. In the course I am adopting I
am prompted by but one desire--to avoid the shame which publicity would
bring upon me. For that reason have I kept my return home a secret from
every person but yourself with whom I am acquainted in London; for that
reason I have taken this lodging in an obscure locality, so that I may
confer the more privately with you, and endeavour to bring you to a true
sense of your position. Publicity will bring shame to me; it will bring
beggary to you--absolute beggary. Let that fact sink into your mind;
ponder well over it; and while you think of it let this declaration
which I am about to make have its due weight. If you drive me to the
extremity of forcing you into a public court, and the case be decided
against you, as it must, no persuasion or entreaty shall induce me to
assist you to the value of a shilling in your future. You will have to
depend absolutely upon yourself and your vile associate for your means
of living. You compel me to hold out this threat, which, under other
circumstances, I should deem unmanly and inhuman."

"It _is_ unmanly and inhuman," she said. "Why do you hold out such a
threat?"

"Because, as I have said, it is the only means I can adopt to bring you
to a proper understanding of your position. Shame you could bear, for
you have already borne it, and it has not touched your fatal beauty."
Her vain nature could not but be gratified at this admission, and she
bestowed upon me a radiant smile. "But poverty, if I have the slightest
knowledge of your character, you could not bear. It would be the
bitterest punishment with which you could be visited."

"I can almost imagine," she said, with a keen glance at me, "that you
have been taking a lesson out of your son's book. You tell me you have
not seen him. Is it the truth?"

"It is the truth. I am dealing plainly and honestly with you."

"You are a true Christian," she said, with a sneer; "good for evil--and
such good for such evil! Yet there is something unchristianlike in your
threat, too. You would thrust me into the streets?"

"As you made me thrust my son. As heaven is my judge, I would do it, in
the cause of justice!"

"That is one side of your mind; there is another. Suppose I plead
guilty; suppose I fall upon my knees before you and confess my sin. My
sin! My sins! For they are so many--O, so many!" She said this with a
theatrical air, and then spoke in a soberer tone. "That is a proper mode
of confession for such a woman as you believe me to be. But without
trying to impose upon you, suppose I admit, without any attempt at
romance or deceit--for those acts are played out now, are they not? and
we come to a winding-up of the plot--suppose I am wicked, and guilty of
every charge you bring against me. What would you require me to do?"

"First to leave my house, taking with you all that belongs to you--your
trinkets, dresses, and ornaments--to leave my house, and never enter it
again as long as you live."

"But if I died, I might haunt you," she said, with a laugh, "though I
assure you I have no intention of dying for a good many years yet. And
then?"

"To renounce my name--adopt any other you please, it matters not to me,
but mine you shall no longer bear."

"Really," she said, "the similarity between your conditions and those of
your son is very wonderful. It is hardly possible to believe you have
not been conspiring--but of course it would not become me to doubt the
word of so honourable a gentleman. And then?"

"To leave the country for good."

"Another coincidence. I was almost inclined myself to suggest it to you.
And in payment of these sacrifices, what do you offer?"

"An income of twelve hundred pounds a year, secured, to be paid
regularly and faithfully to you so long as you do not violate the
conditions of the agreement."

"Secured by deed?"

"Yes, in the manner most agreeable to you. Do you consent?"

"What!" she exclaimed. "In a moment! No, indeed, I must have time to
ponder, to let the facts sink into my mind, as you said. It is not only
_your_ life, _your_ honour, and _your_ welfare that are concerned. It
affects me more than it does you, for I am young, and have a long life
before me; you are old, and will soon be in your grave. I hope you have
no intention of cheating the law, and marrying again. I can stand a
great deal, but not that. I am a jealous woman, and really loved you for
a few days. You loved me, too, or you lied to me most wickedly. Is there
any other woman you wish to serve as you have served me?"

"If I were free, I should never marry again."

"My dear," she said, in her lightest tone, "it is a wise resolve. Only
the young should marry. When I am as old as you I shall enter a convent,
and repent, and become good. Till then, I must continue to be wicked.
How long do you give me to decide between the two things you have
offered me?"

"What time do you require?"

"To-day is Wednesday. Two days--that will be Friday. But Friday is
such an unlucky day, and I am so unfortunate! On Saturday--shall it
be Saturday? Will you give me till then? Have pity on me! You will not
refuse me so short a time as three days, in which I am to decide my
fate?"

The words, written down, bear an entirely different construction from
that in which she employed them. Her voice was a voice of mockery, and
upon her lips was the same pleasant smile with which, I have no doubt,
she would have killed me where I stood had it been in her power.

"Let it be Saturday," I said.

"I will come then," she said sweetly, "and see once more the gentleman I
swore to love, honour, and obey. Thank you, so much! Will you not kiss
me, even now? Will you not as much as shake hands with me? Cruel! If I
had known you better, when you begged me to be your wife, I should have
hesitated; I should not have trusted my future to the hands of such a
man. I had my doubts; I said, 'He is too old, he cannot understand a
young heart like mine.' Ah, if I had listened to the voice of prudence!
But when was a woman in love prudent? I may arrange my hair at your
looking glass, may I not? I am your wife, although you hate me. Thank
you once more. What a pretty glass--and what a sweet room! I could live
here with you for ever, if you loved and cared to have me. But it can
never be, can it? You have found me out. O, how dreadful it is to be
found out! Worse for a woman than for a man--a thousand, thousand times
worse! My hair has grown longer since I last saw you--don't you think
so? And thicker. Feel it. No? How miserable you are! Did you ever really
love me, I wonder? If I were a man, and loved a woman as pretty as I
am--you can't deny that I _am_ pretty; when I walk through the streets
with my veil up, nine men out of ten stop and turn to look at me; that's
why I wear my veil down. A married woman! They should be ashamed of
themselves. But what can a pretty woman do? What was I saying? O, I
remember. If I were a man, and loved a woman as good-looking as I am, I
would go through fire and water for her. I would, indeed! What a woman
wants is love, devotion--perfect devotion--and liberty to do whatever
she likes. That is all. Else what does a woman marry for? To be a slave?
You say you will never many again. Nor will I--you shall not outdo me in
generosity. I may love, but I will never marry--never, never! You men
are either fools or something worse--and women, too, are fools when they
sell themselves for money, as I did, and tie themselves to creatures who
can't appreciate them. I don't mean you, my dear. No--you are too soft,
and yielding, and honourable. More women would be happy if there were
more men in the world like you. See how happy you have made me--see
what you have brought me to!"

She sank upon a chair, and covered her face with her hands, and I
saw tears stealing between her fingers--but I saw, also, that she was
watching my face all the while to note the effect her words had upon me.
I did not interrupt her in her speech. I stood quietly observing her,
and wondering within myself whether there were many women like her, and
whether other men were suffering as I was suffering. All the while she
was talking she was arranging her hair, and displaying it to the best
advantage. Heaven knows how old she is, but as she stood before me,
turning occasionally, looking at me through the masses of fair hair
which fell around her face, she did not appear to be more than eighteen.
Her beauty, her appeals, the tender modulations of her voice, produced
no other effect upon me than that of wonder and disgust. I did not allow
this feeling to be seen; the stake at issue was too momentous for me,
by a sign, to jeopardise the end I was working for. Presently she rose,
and completed the arrangements of her hair, which she had purposely
prolonged. Then, before putting on her hat and cloak, she asked me for a
glass of wine. I had none, and I gave her a glass of water; she tasted
it, and threw the rest away, saying:

"My dear, you should drink wine. It is good for old men; it is
nourishing."

Still I did not speak, and as if to compel me, she asked,

"Do they not know your name in this house?"

"They do not," I replied.

"Do you intend them to know it?"

"I intend them not to know it. You can, of course, frustrate my
intention if you will."

"I do not wish. I thought you desired to keep it secret, and therefore,
when I knocked at the door and it was opened, I did not ask for you by
name, I simply asked if a gentleman was in who had taken a lodging here
yesterday. The servant answered that he was, and directed me to your
room. She did not even see my face. You see how I am endeavouring to
fall in with all your wishes--anticipating them, even. But I love a
mystery dearly. Good day, my dear. Till Saturday. I will be here,
punctually at twelve. Shall I kiss baby for you? No? You are
incorrigible."

And with nods and pleasant smiles she left me, pulling her veil close
over her face.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XLIII.

MR. HOLDFAST'S DIARY.


Thursday, _3rd July_.--No news of my son. I see by this morning's papers
that another vessel has arrived at Liverpool from New York. It left four
days after the "Germanic," so that, up to that time, Frederick could not
have called at the hotel for the letter and money waiting there for
him. I am growing seriously uneasy. He could not have mistaken my desire
for a reconciliation. What can have become of him? He was in poor
circumstances. Was he absolutely in want? If he is dead, his death lies
at my door. A heavy lot is mine. I shall never again know peace of mind
until I and Frederick clasp hands once more in love and friendship.

Perhaps the secret enemy in New York who worked against me--watching my
movements and in some mysterious way becoming acquainted with every step
I took--was working also against my son, watching him and misdirecting
him, as I was misdirected. It is not an unlikely supposition. As I was
sent in one direction in search of him, he may have been sent in another
in search of me. Thus have we been kept apart from each other. It is
certain that, shortly after he called at my hotel, he must have left New
York. My hope is, that nothing worse than poverty has befallen him. I am
appalled at the thought that he may have been made to disappear, and may
never more be heard of. It has been the fate of many a poor fellow in
that fevered city. I pray to God that my fears may not prove true.

The people in this house are very quiet. They do not appear to entertain
the slightest curiosity concerning me. I walk in and out as few times
as possible, and I have not met one of the lodgers face to face. A man
might live here for years in perfect obscurity, and die and be buried
without being recognised, if he pleased. There is no lonelier city in
the world than London.

What is my wife doing? Taking counsel of her accomplice, Pelham, and
debating with him whether she shall accept the terms I have offered her.
She _must_ accept them; she has no alternative but the alternative of
poverty and exposure. A life of pleasure is before her; it is all she
lives for, and the income she will receive from me will secure it.
But should she refuse? No, she will not refuse. With such a cool,
calculating villain as Pelham to counsel her, the risk of a public
exposure is small.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Friday, 4th July._--The quietest of days. Since Wednesday I have not
exchanged a word with a human being. No one takes the slightest notice
of me as I walk in and out. Still no news of my son. To-morrow my wife
will be here, and there will be an end to my state of inaction.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Saturday, 5th July._--The second interview with my wife has
terminated. She could have had no intention of putting me on my guard,
but she has done so, and on Monday I shall take a step which will
prevent injustice being done to my son, in case he is alive.

My wife came into my room, as on the last occasion, closely veiled, and
with spirits as animated.

"My love," she said, removing her hat and cloak, and throwing them on
the bed, "not a soul saw me. The servant girl, with her face as black as
coal, opened the door, and asked what I wanted. 'The gentleman on the
first floor,' I said, and pushed past her. And do you know I took the
precaution to disguise my voice. She wouldn't recognise me if she heard
me speak in my natural voice. I did this for your sake, my dear--you are
so anxious for secrecy. Am I not considerate? I don't mind being seen
and known, for I have nothing to conceal, but I must obey you. And how
have you been all this time? Well, I hope. How foolish you are to remain
cooped up in this miserable house when you have a comfortable home
waiting for you! I have expected you--upon my word I have; and your room
is ready for you, with a nice fire always burning, and your slippers,
placed right and left, just by your arm-chair. O, I know what a wife's
duty is. Let me prevail upon you. Come home with me now. I will not
reproach you--indeed I will not. I will be just as faithful and loving
as I have ever been."

She paused for my answer.

"You are wasting time," I said. "You know well that I shall never again
enter my house while you are there!"

"My dear," she said, tapping my arm lightly with a pearl fan I had given
her, "you cannot entirely deceive me. I have been thinking a great deal.
It is my belief you are a Don Juan. I had my suspicions when you first
made love to me--an old gentleman like you falling in love with a girl
like me, because I have a pretty face, and bright eyes, and a lovely
mouth. You were fond of kissing it once--O, you men, you men! Will
artless women ever be a match for you? I am afraid never, you speak so
softly, and promise so much. Yes, I have been thinking a great deal, and
I know all about it now. I know why you have been absent so long; I know
why you come unexpectedly to London, and hide yourself as you are doing;
I know why you will not enter your house while I am there."

She paused again, and half sullenly, half gaily, gave me to understand
that she expected me to challenge her knowledge.

"It is of no interest to me," I said, "but it may bring us nearer to our
real business if I ask you for information on these points."

"Why," she said, with an impudent laugh, "there is another lady in the
case, of course, who is to step into my shoes. It is useless denying it.
Old men are not to be trusted. Come, my dear, make a clean breast of it.
I won't scold you more than I can help. It is quite natural, though. I
have my feelings as a woman, and I warn your new fancy to keep out of my
path. You must have been a sad rake when you were young--almost as bad
as your son, who made love to me in the most shameful manner; to me, his
second mother."

I scorned to pursue the subject. Wilful, wicked, sinful and cunning, as
she was, I felt that to a certain extent it would be as well to let her
have her way with her tongue.

"When you have fully relieved your mind," I said coldly, "I am ready to
enter into the business matter which brings us together."

But she had not yet done.

"Fie!" she exclaimed. "Business--business--business! How often are you
going to use that word? Is love a business, then? You can tell me, for
you must have had hundreds of sad adventures. I have had very few as
yet, but there is time for plenty more. My dear, I positively refuse to
enter into our special little affair until you assure me there is no
other lady in the case."

Compelled to reply, I said, "There is none."

She mocked me with a deep sigh, saying, "You have taken a weight off my
heart," and then in a brisk tone, "And now, my dear, we will go into
matters." She drew her chair close to the table, and produced a dainty
little pocket-book, in which she consulted some slips of paper, a few
of them covered with figures. "You offer me," she said, "twelve hundred
pounds a year, upon conditions which will cover me with disgrace, and
make people point at me. Is that correct?"

"Not quite," I replied. "You have omitted that you are to live out of
England in any name you choose except the name of Holdfast. Your new
acquaintances will know nothing of your past life."

"It will be a miracle if it is hidden from them," she said, betraying a
method in her speech which proved that she had carefully rehearsed what
she came prepared to say. "I do not intend to live in a desert. If I am
driven by your cruelty from the country I love, and where, with money, a
lady may enjoy all the pleasures of life, I shall live on the Continent,
in France, Italy, Germany, where I please, but certainly where I can
best enjoy myself. English people travel everywhere, and I shall be sure
to drop across old acquaintances, or, at least, people who know me at
sight. My face is too pretty to be forgotten. Perhaps you will admit
that I cannot lose myself entirely, and that Lydia Holdfast, by whatever
name she goes, will always be Lydia Holdfast in the eyes of casual or
close acquaintances."

"I shall not relate my troubles to any one," I observed, as yet ignorant
of her intention in adopting this line of argument, "nor need you, if
you choose to preserve silence."

"Have you not already spoken of what has occurred?" she asked, with a
keen glance at me. "Have you not already selected confidants to whom you
have poured out false stories of your wrongs?"

"No man or woman in the world possesses my confidence. My griefs are
sacred."

"How poetical! But although we shall not talk, other people will. Men
and women are so charitable! They don't like scandal, and it hurts them
so much to rob even the most innocent woman of her character! No, no, my
love; I know the world better than to believe that. Not that I have ever
taken away a character, man or woman's, but then everybody is not like
me, artless, and simple, and inexperienced!" (No words of mine can
convey an idea of the impudent manner in which she thus lauded herself,
knowing the while and knowing that I knew, that she was speaking in
mockery. If she desired to irritate me by this exhibition of effrontery,
she failed. I preserved my composure throughout the entire scene. She
continued:) "So, my character would be completely taken away, and ladies
with whom I should wish to be on friendly terms would turn their backs
upon me. I should be thrown into the company of women who would not be
admitted into a decent house, and of men whose only aim would be to
pass their time agreeably and play upon my feelings. My dear, I am fond
of good society; I doat upon it; and it breaks my heart to think that
respectability would shrug its respectable shoulders at me. It is right
that I should put it plainly to you, is it not?"

"Go on," I said, "you have more to say, and have come prepared."

"Oh, yes, I am prepared, you see. I am obliged to consult my notes, my
poor little head is so weak. You remember how I used to suffer with it,
and how often you bathed it for me. Gold would not have been too good
for me to eat then, would it? A look would bring you at my feet; you
could not do enough for me; and now, I daresay, you would like to give
me a dose of poison. What courage I must have to shut myself in here
with you alone, where nobody knows either of us, and where you might
murder me, and run away without fear of discovery! It is the courage of
innocence, my dear. Where did I leave off just now? O, about my being
deprived of respectable society, and thrust into the company of
blackguards. And for this, and for giving up my beautiful home and
position and forfeiting my good name, you offer me twelve hundred
pounds a year. And you, worth millions!"

"You mistake. My business is broken up, and I am not so rich as you
suppose."

"You are a miser, my dear. You are worth at least ten thousand a year. I
do not forget what you told me when you honoured me with your love and
confidence. At least ten thousand, and I am to accept twelve hundred.
My darling husband, it is not enough. Wherever I live I shall require
an establishment. I have your daughter to bring up--the darlingest
little thing you ever saw! You shall not see her now if I can prevent
it--casting shame upon her, as you have done, before she has learnt to
say Mama! I will do my duty by her--a mother's duty, and a father's
duty as well, and I will bring her up to hate you. If you live long
enough you shall be made to feel it. And now, when she cannot speak for
herself, I am to stand like a tame cat, and see her robbed! She is to
be made a beggar. Such a beautiful girl as she will have to go in rags,
because the father who disowns her is a mean, stingy monster. I hope I
do not offend you, my dear, but the truth is the truth, and had best be
spoken. Yes, she will be beautiful--but beauty and beggary---- Well, we
know what becomes of that partnership. She shall not be compelled to
sell herself, as I did, to an old money-bag, with no heart, and you
shall not cheat her and me of what is due to us. No, my dear, I stand up
for my child, as every mother should."

"Tell me," I said, "in as few words as possible, what it is you want."

"I shall use," she replied, "as many words as I please. You would like
to rob me of my tongue as well as of my rights. What is it I want? An
establishment--money to provide a suitable home for your discarded
child."

"How much money."

"Three thousand pounds--not less."

"You shall have it; in addition to the annuity I have offered you."

"How generous you are! What a pity you were not a young man when you
met me first! We might really have got on very well together for a few
years, until you were tired of me or I was of you. Three thousand pounds
will be little enough to furnish with, but I must manage. Then there's
the house; and living abroad is so expensive. It is like going into
exile--the same as those dear French refugees. It will cost at least
three thousand a year; I can't see how it is to be done for less. And
to wait every quarter for the cheque to pay servants, and butchers, and
bakers, and dressmakers. No, my dear, it would be too harassing--it
would be the death of me. So I have consulted a friend--a lady
friend--you don't believe me? You think it's a gentleman friend. Well,
my dear, I shall not quarrel with you on that point. Say a gentleman
friend, then; I'm not particular. He has advised me not to place any
dependence on a man who has treated me as you have done. He is right. I
will not place dependence on you. I will not take your word, and I will
not be satisfied with a paper drawn up by a lawyer of your choosing.
Lawyers are rogues; they will do anything for money, and you are rich
enough to buy them. No, my darling husband, it must be a sum of money
down, and then we will say good bye, and agree never to kiss and be
friends. It would be as if we had never known each other."

Desirous to ascertain how far her cupidity had led her, or rather the
extent of the demand her associate Pelham had instructed her to make,
I pressed her to be quite explicit. With some show of timidity--for
the stake she was playing for was enormous--she wrote upon a leaf in
her pocket-book the sum for which she would agree to release me. It
was fifty thousand pounds. I tore the leaf in two and threw it into
the fireplace, with the simple word, "Impossible."

"Why impossible?" she asked, biting her lips, with a wicked look at me.

"It is more than half my fortune," I replied.

"I am entitled to more than half," she retorted. "I shall have your
child to educate and provide for, and a woman's expenses are larger
than a man's. Dress, amusements, nurses, governesses--there are a
thousand things to pay for which you would never dream of. What I ask
for is really moderate. You are lucky you have not to deal with some
women; they would not let you off so easily. Let me persuade you, my
dear. Put an end to all this worry, give me a cheque, and let us say
good-bye to each other."

"I shall put an end to it, if you compel me," I said, firmly, "in the
manner I have determined upon, in the event of your refusal to listen to
reason. In right and justice you are not entitled to a shilling; your
shameful life should properly meet its just punishment, and would, at
the hands of a man less weak--I will not say less merciful--than I.
The terms I have offered you are foolishly liberal, but I will adhere
to them, and am ready to bind myself to them, unless you drive me to
another course. I will give you the three thousand pounds you ask for
to set up and furnish a house, and I shall require proof that the money
is so expended. But as for any other large sum of money down, as you
express it, in lieu of the annuity I offer you, or any increase of that
annuity, receive from me the distinct assurance that under no possible
circumstances shall I consent to it. If I could find plainer and
stronger words to impress this upon you, I would do so, but I think you
understand me. The friend who is advising you is advising you to your
injury, and is mistaken in me. There is a point beyond which it is
dangerous to drive me, and if I once turn, you will find yourself a
beggar."

"You are growing bold, my love," she said.

"You are mistaken again," I said. "If I were bold, I should order you
immediately from this room. If I were bold, I should set the lawyers at
work without an hour's delay. But recrimination is useless, and can lead
to no good result. Why do you conduct yourself like an actress when we
two are alone, and there are no witnesses to be misled or deceived? We
know each other. No argument could convince you that I am anything but
a weak, old man, who in an unhappy moment entrusted his honour to one
who brought shame and misery to his heart and home, or could convince
me that you are a good and virtuous woman. Why, then, should we prolong
this interview? I made you a most generous offer. You asked me for three
days to consider it, and now you come, and for some purpose--not a wise
one, I judge--introduce propositions to which you can never induce me to
agree."

"I am fighting for my rights," she said sullenly, and I knew that I had
made an impression upon her. "You have ruined my life; I might have
married a richer man than you. Why did you spoil my chances? It would be
a million times better for me if you were dead, for then your property
would all be mine, instead of the miserable allowance you offer me."

She suddenly paused, conscious that she had made a mistake. It is likely
that she was apprised of her error by an expression in my face produced
by her words, for it is a fact that up to this moment I had forgotten
that I had made a Will by which everything I possessed was left to her,
solely and unconditionally. I had made this Will in haste, after I had
broken with my son, who at that time was my heir. It was a proof of my
confidence in the woman who betrayed me--one of those foolish acts of
which angry men are often guilty, done in haste, to be repented of in
leisure unless timefully atoned for. Thank God there is time to repair
this error!

I gave no expression to my thoughts; it was necessary to be careful
in the presence of such a woman as my wife. But so anxious was she
to assure herself of the exact position in which she stood that she
over-reached herself in her cunning.

"Have you made another Will?" she asked.

"No," I replied. "There is time before me; I am not yet quite
broken-down."

She breathed more freely, and said meekly, "Yes, there is time before
you in which you can dispossess me and my child. When this dreadful
dispute is over, I shall have no further claim upon you. Are you really
determined not to be a little more generous to me? Will you not give me
fifteen hundred a year?"

I was not to be deceived by her mock humility; heaven only knows what
was hidden beneath it.

"I am not to be moved," I said, "and there must be an end at once to
prevarication. Your answer must be 'yes,' or 'no,' and it must be given
quickly."

"To-day?" she asked.

"If not to-day, at least within the next three or four days," I replied.
"I will no longer be kept in a state of suspense."

She looked at me with a sad expression, which might have deceived
another man.

"On Wednesday, then," she said, "at two o'clock, I will give you my
final answer. It must be 'Yes,' of course, for you are strong and I am
weak, but I will wait till then. I am bound to consult my friend before
I commit myself."

All her gaiety appeared to have deserted her. In silence she put on her
hat and shawl, and bade me good morning, saying she would come at two
o'clock on Wednesday.

I mistrust her; I will delay no longer. On Monday I will draw out
another Will, making my son my heir, and in case of his not being
alive--which God forbid!--leaving my money to charitable purposes.

It is a relief to reflect that my anxiety regarding my wife will soon be
at an end. She cannot but consent to my proposal, and then I shall be
free from her for ever. Would to God I had never seen her!

       *       *       *       *       *

_Sunday, 6th July._--This has been truly a Sabbath Day, a day of prayer,
to me, and has been passed in contemplation of my past life, and in
supplications for the future. If a man could but see the consequences of
his errors before he was committed to them, how much misery to himself,
how much injustice to others, would be avoided! It is almost incredible
that, blessed in the memory of a wife with a pure heart and mind, I
should have been led into a second marriage with such a woman as Lydia
Wilson. The fault was more mine than hers. She had led a life of shame
and duplicity, and it was not to be expected that the simple forming of
an acquaintanceship with me would change her character. I should have
been wiser, or at least more prudent. I ought certainly to have made an
inquiry into the truth or falsehood of the story she told me, or I might
have considered that the union of a man of my age with a woman of hers
could not be a happy one. It is too late now to repent of an act which
has brought its own just and bitter punishment. The only reparation I
can make is to endeavour to repair the evil consequences which have
ensued. The one aim of my life, after the settlement with my wife is
accomplished, will be to find my son. I will advertise for him in the
English and American newspapers, and this surely will bring me news of
him. But it may not be necessary; he may be with me any time this week.
If a father's prayers could bring him to my side he would be here at
this moment.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Monday, 7th July._--I have been employed during a great part of the day
in preparing and writing a new Will. Not wishing to consult a lawyer and
so to make known my presence in London, and fearful also of delay, I
purchased at a stationer's shop, at some distance from Great Porter
Square, printed forms of Wills from which I drew out a testamentary
disposition of my property. This task occupied me until four o'clock
in the afternoon, and the next task was to obtain witnesses to my
signature. These could have been obtained in the house, but if I had
attempted it I should have destroyed my incognito. I went to the shop
of the stationer of whom I purchased the printed forms, and I returned
them to him, and made some small purchases, to the amount of a couple
of sovereigns. I then asked the shopkeeper whether he would have any
objection to witnessing my signature to a Will, and to allowing an
assistant who was serving in the shop also to witness it. He consented,
and I signed without giving him a clear opportunity of distinguishing my
name; the names of the witnesses followed, and the Will was complete. In
payment of the service rendered to me I left in the man's shop the goods
I had bought and paid for; I had no use for them.

The Will is before me now, and I have read it carefully over. Everything
appears to be stated in proper legal form, and I have no doubt that it
sets my last Will completely aside. What I have done myself without the
aid of lawyers has been simply a measure of precaution for the next few
days. Wednesday, I hope, will be the last day of my enforced retirement.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Wednesday, 8th July._--It is now four o'clock. My wife entered my room
at one o'clock, an hour before that appointed for our meeting. I did
not hear her step on the stairs or in the passage, and not expecting her
I was looking over the Will I made yesterday and the pages of the diary
I have kept since I became a lodger in this house. As she entered,
suddenly and unexpectedly, I threw a newspaper over my writing, not
wishing to excite her suspicions or to arouse her curiosity; but, as I
soon discovered, I was not successful. She was in her usual gay mood,
and came in with smiles and bright looks.

"Well, my dear," she said, "here I am, punctual to the minute."

"You are an hour too early," I replied, "our appointment was for two
o'clock."

"One o'clock, my dear," she said, correcting me.

"It is immaterial," I said, "and if it bring our business to a speedier
conclusion, the mistake of an hour will be agreeable to me."

She nodded pleasantly, and, as in our previous interviews, took off her
hat and mantle, and placed them aside.

"You have been busy," she said, pointing to the newspaper which covered
my papers. "Are you writing a book?" I did not answer her, and she
continued, still preserving her light tone. "Make me your heroine, my
love, but do not be too hard to me. Say something good of me if you can.
You may say that, after all, I showed my good sense, and agreed to your
proposals."

"Am I to accept this as an acquiescence in the arrangement I have
proposed?"

"Yes, my dear; I have grown sensible. I give in to all your terms. I
will go away from England, and will never, never return. I will give up
the name of Holdfast; I will even forget the name of Lydia, and will go
out into the world a new woman. A better one, I hope. There is but one
thing I insist upon. Now that I have made up my mind, and that nothing
can alter it--nothing, my dear; I would not live with you again if you
were to entreat me on your knees--I want this business matter settled at
once, this very day."

"How can that be done?" I asked.

"Easily," she replied. "Draw up a paper for me to sign, and another for
you to sign. I will take them away with me, and will show them to my
lawyer. Yes, my love, I have consulted a lawyer, and he has advised me
to agree to all you propose. If he says the papers are properly drawn
out, I will come again to-night, at ten o'clock, and will bring my
lawyer with me, to see that they are regularly signed. I will keep
my agreement, and you will keep yours, and to-morrow morning I will
leave your house, and you can go home and take possession. Nobody but
ourselves will be the wiser, and your secret and mine will never be
known to the world."

"I am no lawyer," I said; "I do not know whether I can draw up the
agreement in legal form."

"Try, my love," she said; "you are fond of writing, and have had great
experience. You can put anything you please in the paper you wish me to
sign. You can make it, if you like, a confession from me that I have
been a faithless wife, and that my child is not yours. I will sign it.
That will suit you, will it not? And it will give you such a hold upon
me that, if I break my word, you can release yourself from me, without
ever paying me a shilling. That is fair, I am sure, and afterwards,
if you are not satisfied with the agreements, your lawyer can draw up
others more binding on both of us. I am so sick of you, my love, that
nothing else will satisfy me but an immediate break between us. Do I not
put myself entirely in your power? If you refuse now, I shall leave you
to take any steps against me you choose."

I considered a few moments, and then consented. To go to law, to sue for
a divorce, was a matter of months. The plan she proposed was all in my
favour, and it would leave me free to recommence immediately the search
for my son. I would draw up such a paper as would bind her beyond hope
of appeal, and all danger of publicity would be avoided.

"Who is your lawyer?" I asked.

She produced a letter from a lawyer in Buckingham Palace Road replying
to certain points she had submitted to him. I was satisfied, and said
that I would endeavour to draw up the agreements.

It was a work of time--of quite two hours--and while I was employed over
the papers she sat down before the piano in my room, which I had never
opened, and played the sweetest melodies with which she was familiar.
She betrayed no impatience; only once did she rise from the piano,
and disarranged the papers on the table, in pretended search of her
handkerchief.

"Quite an author," she remarked as her eyes fell upon the pages of my
diary, among which was my new Will.

Nothing of greater importance occurred. The agreements being ready, she
read them over slowly, and simply said:

"You have protected yourself, my love."

"I have stated the truth," I replied, "and your signature will verify
it."

She remained with me some short time after this, making frivolous
remarks, to which I returned but brief answers. Then she left me, on the
understanding that she would come to the house at ten o'clock to sign
the papers, which she took with her.

On reflection, I think it will be wise even now to be on my guard
against her. She saw the pages of my diary, and might have seen the
Will. I will put them out of her reach. The room next to this is empty,
and the door is unlocked. I will go and see if I can secrete them
there.... There is in that room, in an old-fashioned table, an empty
drawer which might easily escape observation. There is a small key in
the lock. I will deposit these pages at once in the drawer, where they
will be safe for a few hours.

My long agony is approaching its end. Impatiently I wait for the night.



CHAPTER XLIV.

CAGED.


With those words the diary ended.

In breathless silence, oblivious for the time of every surrounding
circumstance, Frederick Holdfast perused the record of his father's
last hours. What followed, after his father had secreted the papers,
was clear to his mind. Mrs. Holdfast had kept her appointment at ten
o'clock, accompanied by her "lawyer," who could have been no other than
the villain Pelham. By a hapless fatality, the house, No. 119 Great
Porter Square, had on that night but one inmate--the man who was never
to see another rising sun. The landlady and her lodgers were at a
wedding feast; the servant was enjoying the glories of the Alhambra,
in the company of her sweetheart. Only Mr. Holdfast remained, and thus
his murderers were enabled to enter and leave the house without being
observed. Most likely he himself opened the street door for them. In the
privacy of his room, with no witnesses near, the mask was thrown off by
Mrs. Holdfast and her associate, and demands were made upon Mr. Holdfast
with which he refused to comply. Whether the purpose of his visitors
was murder would never now be known, but murder was accomplished before
they departed, and the unhappy man was left by the wretched pair in the
agonies of death. It was necessary, thereafter, for their own safety
that they should not be seen in the neighbourhood of Great Porter
Square, and it would have excited suspicion had they exhibited the
slightest interest in the mysterious murder of a man whose body had
not been identified. Before leaving their victim they had taken the
precaution to empty his pockets of papers, and to remove from the room
everything in writing which might have led to the identification of the
body. Having made themselves safe, they left the house, and kept out of
sight. But some time afterwards Mrs. Holdfast must have recalled, in
conversation with Pelham, the memory of the sheets of paper covered with
her husband's writing which she had seen upon the table when she had
visited him; these pages were not found in his room, and they were then
tormented by the idea that the writing was still in existence, and might
one day be discovered to criminate and bring their guilt home to them.
It became, therefore, vital to their safety that the papers should not
fall into other hands, and for the purpose of searching for them and
obtaining possession of them, Pelham had disguised himself as Richard
Manx, and had taken an attic in No. 118 Great Porter Square, from which
room he could gain easy access to the house in which the murder had been
committed.

The circumstantial evidence of guilt was complete, but direct evidence,
in his father's own writing, now lay in Frederick Holdfast's hands.
What remained to be done was to bring the murderer to the bar of
justice.

Not a moment was to be lost. It was now late in the night, and Pelham
was doubtless upstairs, busily engaged in his last search.

Frederick placed the papers carefully in his breast pocket. His honour
was established, his name was returned to him, he was absolved from his
oath. He could resume his position in the world, and could offer to the
woman he loved an honourable position in society. It was she who had led
him to this discovery; had it not been for her courage, the wretches
would have escaped, and his father's murder remained unavenged.

"I myself," said Frederick, "will deliver the murderer into the hands of
justice. Tonight he shall sleep in a felon's cell."

He had no fear. Single-handed he would arrest Pelham; it was but man to
man, and he was armed, and his cause was just.

He listened for a moment. It was a wild night, and the rain was pouring
down heavily. The detective and his assistants were in the Square,
waiting upon his summons. Nothing but the plashing of the rain was to
be heard; no other sound fell upon his ears from within or without. The
murderer was working warily in the room above; he himself would be as
wary. Cunning for cunning, silence for silence, a life for a life.

"You murderous villain!" murmured Frederick. "Were it not that I dare
not stain my soul with a crime, you should not live another hour!"

In his stocking-feet he crept from the kitchen, and stepped noiselessly
up-stairs. In his hushed movements was typified the retribution which
waits upon the man who sheds the blood of a human being.

As he ascended the stairs which led to the first floor he was made
aware, by the sound of a man moving softly in the room in which his
father had been murdered, that Pelham was at work. In a few moments
Frederick Holdfast was at the door, listening.

Before he turned the handle, he looked through the key-hole to mark
the exact spot upon which Pelham stood, so that he might seize him the
instant he entered the room. To his surprise he saw two persons in the
room--Pelham bending over the floor boards he had torn up, and the form
of a man lying on the bed.

He could not see the face of the recumbent man; the face of Pelham was
clearly visible.

It was not, then, man to man. There were two to one. Justice might be
defeated were he to risk the unequal encounter. He determined to call in
the assistance of the officers in the Square.

But before he left the house, which was being watched from the front
and the back, it would be as well to make sure of the murderer and his
companion, so that they should have no possible means of escape. He took
from his pocket the key of the room, which he had picked up a few hours
ago; with a steady hand he inserted it in the lock, and gently turned
it, being unable to prevent the sound of a slight click. Then he crept
noiselessly down stairs, opened the street door, closed it softly
behind him, and stepping into the road, put a whistle to his lips.

The summons was not instantly obeyed, and he blew the whistle again, and
looked anxiously around. The faint sound of another whistle presently
answered him, and in two or three minutes the detective was by his side.

"I was at the back of the house, sir," said the detective, in apology,
"giving directions to one of my men, Parrock, a sharp fellow. You have
discovered something," he added, noting Frederick's agitation.

"I have found my father's diary," said Frederick, speaking rapidly, "and
a Will he made two or three days before he was murdered."

"Making you all right, I hope," said the detective.

"Yes--but that is of no consequence. The diary, which I have read,
leaves no room to doubt that my father was murdered by his wife's
accomplice, Pelham. The evidence is conclusive, and he cannot escape the
law, once we have him safe. He must be arrested this moment. He is in
my father's room. I would have secured him myself, but he has another
man with him, and I did not care to run the chance of two against one."

"He has a woman with him, you mean," said the detective, "not a man."

"A man, I mean," replied Frederick; "I saw him with my own eyes."

"And I, with _my_ own eyes," rejoined the detective, "saw Mrs. Holdfast
enter No. 118 this evening, in company of Richard Manx, otherwise
Pelham. Attend to me a moment, sir. I see through it all. Mrs. Holdfast
accompanied him to-night into the house. Never mind the motive--a
woman's motive, say--curiosity, wilfulness, anything will serve. Pelham
does not want her company--she forces it on him. What does he do then?
He dresses her in a suit of his clothes, so that they may not attract
attention when they leave Great Porter Square to-night for good. She
is a noticeable woman, sir, and has a style about her which one can't
help remarking. The person you saw was Mrs. Holdfast, dressed in man's
clothes. They are both, you say, in the room your father occupied?"

"Yes, and I have locked them in, so that they cannot easily get out of
it."

"Did they hear the key turn?" asked the detective, anxiously.

"I was very quiet, and I think they did not hear the movement. If you
are right in your conjecture, they have thrown themselves into our
hands; their being together in that room is an additional proof of their
guilt."

"Undoubtedly. They are trapped. What's that?" cried the detective,
suddenly.

"What?" asked Frederick, following the detective's startled glance,
which was directed towards the first-floor window of No. 119.

"A flash! There! Another! Do you see it? By God, sir! they have set fire
to the house! Ah, here is Parrock," he said, turning to the man who had
run quickly to his side. "What news?"

"The house is on fire," said the man, who was out of breath with fast
running.

"Any fool can see that. Get to the back of the house instantly. Take
another man with you, and arrest every person who attempts to escape."
Parrock disappeared. By this time the flames were rushing out of the
front window of the first floor. "Fire! Fire!" cried the detective. "The
neighbourhood is roused already. Stand close by the street door, sir,
and don't let Pelham slip you. He has set fire to the house, and hopes
to escape in the confusion. Leave all the rest to me. There is the door
of 118 opening, and there is your young lady, sir, safe and sound. I
wish you joy. Waste as little time as possible on her. Your first
thought must be for your father's murderers."

As Frederick passed to the street door of 119 he caught Blanche's hand,
and she accompanied him. He stooped and kissed her.

"Thank God, you are safe," he said. "Our troubles are over. I have found
my father's Will and diary. Pelham is the murderer; he is in this house
now--hunted down."

"Hark!" cried Blanche, clinging to him. "There is some one else in the
house. That is a woman's scream!"

It was a scream of terrible anguish, uttered by a woman in a moment of
supreme despair. Every face turned white as that awful cry floated from
the burning building.

[Decoration]



CHAPTER XLV.

RETRIBUTION.


When Frederick Holdfast turned the key in the lock, Pelham raised his
head, and looked in alarm at Mrs. Holdfast. She, also, hearing the
sound, slightly raised herself from the bed upon which she was reclining
and looked into Pelham's face. Dazed with fear, they remained thus,
transfixed, gazing at each other, and did not speak for full a minute.
Then Pelham, with his finger on his lips, looked upward to the ceiling,
in the supposition that the sound had proceeded from above. For full
another minute neither of them moved.

"Did you hear anything?" asked Pelham, in a whisper. "Speak low."

"Yes," she replied, trembling with fear.

"What do you think it was?"

"God knows," said the terrified woman. "You told me no person was in the
house."

"Nor has there been," he said, "nor is there, I believe. But there may
be rats. We will give up the house to them. What are you staring at, you
fool?" he cried, turning swiftly round.

"I thought I saw a shadow moving behind you," she whispered.

"There's nothing here."

"No, it's gone. It was my fancy. Pelham, I am frightened."

"What did you come here for? I advised you to go home, but you had the
devil in you, and would have your way. Let us make an end of this. In
mischief's name, what's the matter with you now?"

"Hush!" she exclaimed, seizing his hand.

"Well, what is it?" he demanded roughly.

"I heard a whistle outside."

"What of that? Boys whistling in the streets are common enough."

"It was not a boy whistling. It was a shrill sound, as though some one
was calling men about him."

"Or calling a cab."

"Hark! there it is again."

These were the two whistles by which Frederick summoned the detective.

"It is not a boy whistling a tune," said Pelham, "nor a summons for a
cab. I don't suppose it concerns us, but you have succeeded in putting a
stop to my work. I'll do no more. Your dead husband's Will, if he made
one, and anything else he wrote, will soon be out of reach of living
man. Now for the finishing touches."

He poured the spirit about the room, and saturated some sheets of paper
with it, placing them beneath the boards in such a way as to produce an
effectual blaze the moment a light was applied to them.

"I am quite an artist," he said, laughing. "In five minutes there will
be a conflagration which will spread too rapidly for a fire engine to
extinguish until everything on this floor at least is burnt to ashes.
Grace, old girl, this is a business that suits me; I was never meant
for milk-and-water work. The house on fire, and we a mile away, and all
danger will be over."

His gleeful tone jarred upon his guilty associate.

"Work in silence," she said, with a shudder. "Do you forget what was
done in this room the last time we were here together?"

"Forget!" he exclaimed. "No, I shall never forget. But it does not
trouble me. Every man for himself--it is nature's law, and he is a
fool who allows himself to be trampled on and ruined, when he has the
opportunity of putting his enemy out of the way. Well, it is done, and I
am going to reap. These last twelve months I have led the life of a dog;
now I'll live like a gentleman. There! everything is ready. Now for
escape. Grace, you go first to the top of the house, and wait for me.
The moment I set fire to this rubbish, I will join you. We will get back
into the next house, where there will be plenty of people to help to
save the furniture; we will mix with them, and in the confusion slip
off. A kiss, Grace, for luck!"

They kissed each other, and she went to the door, and turned the handle,
but could not open the door. It was fast.

"My God!" she screamed. "We are locked in!"

The full meaning of this flashed instantly upon them.

"Trapped!" cried Pelham, savagely.

He knew well that the game was up, and that nothing short of a miracle
would save him. The sound they had heard was the clicking of the lock;
the whistles they had heard were a summons to their pursuers. While they
had deemed themselves safe, enemies had been watching them. They were
caught in their own trap.

Pelham strove to force the door open, but had not sufficient strength.

"I am as weak as a rat," he muttered hoarsely, "but there is still a
chance."

He tore the sheets from the bed, and in an incredibly short space of
time, working like a madman, knotted them together. His design was to
escape from the house by the back window, but he could find no hold for
his rope within the room. As he looked eagerly around he felt himself
seized by Grace.

"Save me!" she cried, hysterically. "It is there again--the Shadow of
the man we murdered!"

He shook her off, and in her terror, she slipped back, and overturned
the candlestick, which was on the floor, with a lighted candle in it.
The light instantly communicated itself to the spirit and inflammable
matter which Pelham had scattered about, and the next moment the room
was in a blaze. Vainly did Pelham strive to beat out the fire. Blinded
by the smoke, and the flames which presently enveloped them, they
staggered and stumbled in their tomb of fire, and then it was that Grace
gave utterance to the terrible cry of anguish which drove the blood from
the cheeks of the crowd of people surging in Great Porter Square.



CHAPTER XLVI.

IN WHICH THE "EVENING MOON" GIVES A SEQUEL TO ITS "ROMANCE IN REAL
LIFE."


We have much pleasure (said the _Evening Moon_, two days after the fire)
in presenting our readers with the last act of a drama which, in plot,
incident, and extraordinary development of character, equals anything in
the way of sensationalism which has ever graced theatrical boards. The
opportunity is an agreeable one to us, as it enables us to do justice
to a gentleman who has had reason to complain of what has appeared in
our columns concerning him. What we have to say resolves itself into
something more than the last act of a drama; it is both that and the
commencement of a Sequel which, in all human probability, and because
of the nature of the persons engaged in it, will have a happier ending
than that which has been closed by the burning down of the house,
No. 119, Great Porter Square.

In our yesterday's issues we gave the full particulars of that fire.
No one was injured except the two wretched beings who met their just
and awful fate in the grave they had prepared for themselves. They
have passed away from this world, but it will be long before the
memory of their crime and its involvements will be forgotten. It has
been determined to pull down the fatal house in which the murder was
committed, and to rebuild it anew. The house next to it, No. 118,
occupied by Mrs. Preedy, lodging-house keeper, received some damage
from the fire; but Mrs. Preedy is fully insured, and her loss will be
a gain to her--a paradox, but strictly accurate, for the murder in the
adjoining house had brought hers into disrepute, and her business was
languishing. It will revive now that the fire has burnt out the terror
of the crime; and the worthy Mrs. Preedy may congratulate herself
upon having gained friends in the persons of Mr. Frederick Holdfast
and the intrepid, noble-hearted lady who will shortly bear his name.

In Mrs. Preedy's house lived an old bedridden lady, Mrs. Bailey,
whose life was with some difficulty saved. She herself placed serious
obstacles in the way of her preservation, screaming out when they
attempted to remove her from her bed. She clung to this household god
with such tenacity that there was nothing for it but to humour the old
lady, and to remove it with her. As they carried it down stairs, the
covering was by an accident ripped, and there rolled out of it between
thirty and forty sovereigns, which Mrs. Bailey had hoarded up since the
death of her husband, an event which occurred Heaven knows how many
years ago. The distress of the old lady was extreme, but the gold was
picked up and returned to its owner, minus a few sovereigns, which
somehow had stuck to the fingers of the searchers. She is, however,
no loser by the accident, as Mr. Frederick Holdfast made good the
deficiency. It is satisfactory to learn that a cherished tradition
current in Great Porter Square, that the old lady's mattress was stuffed
with gold, was verified by the ripping of the sacking. Mrs. Bailey will
no doubt find another safe for her treasure in the future. The bedridden
old lady sustained a loss in the burning of a linnet without a note to
its voice, and a very old bull-finch, whose cage hung at the foot of her
bed--a sacrifice of life, in addition to the more terrible sacrifice of
two human beings, which we were almost forgetting to mention.

In another part of our paper will be found a full report of the
proceedings at the inquest upon the bodies of the man and woman, which
were found in the back room of No. 119, Great Porter Square. The inquest
was held this morning, and a verdict of accidental death by burning was
returned. As a rule such inquests are dull, miserable affairs, and there
is but little variety in the evidence presented to the coroner and his
panel, but in this special case were elements of unexpected romance
which raised it far above the ordinary level of a simple death by
misadventure.

Last evening a private note was sent to our office, signed by Frederick
Holdfast, requesting as an act of justice, that the Special Reporter who
wrote "The Romance of Real Life" from Mrs. Holdfast's account of her
career and misfortunes, should attend and take whatever notice of the
proceedings he might deem fit and proper. In accordance with the request
our Special Reporter attended, and the present report is written by him
for our paper. The disclosures which were made at the inquest were as
interesting as they were surprising, and our Reporter thanks Mr.
Frederick Holdfast for the opportunity afforded him of being present.

At the inquest our Reporter renewed his acquaintance with Mr. Goldberry,
solicitor, a gentleman whose name will be remembered as having
voluntarily come forward to defend Antony Cowlrick at the Martin Street
Police Court, when, upon the barest suspicion, without a tittle of
direct evidence, that person was accused by the police of the murder of
a man unknown in No. 119, Great Porter Square. Our readers will remember
how stoutly, and under what disadvantages, Mr. Goldberry defended the
man wrongfully accused of the crime; how he protested against the
numerous remands, and lifted up his voice in the cause of justice
against Scotland Yard officialism; and how at length, to the manifest
chagrin of the police, Antony Cowlrick was discharged from custody. The
particulars of the interview which took place in Leicester Square, a few
minutes after Antony Cowlrick's departure from the Police Court, between
our Reporter, Mr. Goldberry, and the accused man, was fully reported
in our columns. In that interview our Reporter lent Antony Cowlrick a
sovereign, which was faithfully repaid. We purpose reprinting in a
pamphlet that report and the "Romance in Real Life," in addition to what
appears in our present issue relating to the case. They are worthy of
a record in a more permanent form than the columns of a newspaper.

"Do you remember," said Mr. Goldberry to our Reporter, referring to
that interview, "that Antony Cowlrick said to me that if at any time he
should need my services, he would call upon or send for me?"

"I do," replied our Reporter, "and I remember, also, that Antony
Cowlrick asked you if you thought God would allow the guilty to escape,
or that He needed the assistance of a lawyer to punish the man who shed
another's blood."

"Yes," said Mr. Goldberry, gravely, "he used those words, and in this
case they are justified by events. God has punished the murderers
without the assistance of a lawyer."

"Why do you recall the name of Antony Cowlrick?" inquired our Reporter.

"Because I am here to represent him. He has not only paid me for my past
services--forcing the money upon me--but he has thanked me for them,
which, in the bitterness of his heart, he declined to do, although he
was not asked, when he was finally discharged."

"I had a suspicion," remarked our Reporter, "at that time that he was a
gentleman; he spoke like one, and had the manner of one. It was chiefly
for that reason I took an interest in him."

"No, no," said Mr. Goldberry, jocosely; "you wanted copy. Every man to
his trade."

"I could retort with good effect," said our Reporter, good-humouredly,
"but I spare you. Will Antony Cowlrick be here this morning?"

"Yes, and others whom you know."

At this moment a lady and a gentleman entered the room in which the
inquest was held, and advancing to Mr. Goldberry shook hands with him.
The gentleman was Antony Cowlrick, who, after a few words with his
lawyer, turned, and offered his hand to our Reporter.

"I must apologise," he said, "for not having kept the half-appointment
I made with you on the day you so generously lent me the sovereign in
Leicester Square, but I had my reasons, which you will understand when
I tell you as much of my story as I think it proper for you to know."

"I attend here," said our Reporter, "on behalf of my paper, in response
to a letter sent to our editor by Mr. Frederick Holdfast."

"I am Frederick Holdfast," said the gentleman. "Antony Cowlrick was an
assumed name; I could not use my own when I was falsely accused of the
murder of my father."

He turned aside with quivering lips, and our Reporter, holding his
grief in respect, did not intrude upon it. The face of the lady who
accompanied Frederick Holdfast appeared singularly familiar to our
Reporter, and his curiosity was presently appeased by Mr. Goldberry, who
informed him that she was the lady who, by the happiest of chances, met
Mr. Frederick Holdfast in Leicester Square after his discharge.

"Were she willing to allow herself to be used in such a way," observed
the lawyer, "her photograph to-morrow could be sold in thousands all
over England. But she does not belong to that class of woman. She is a
heroine, in the truest sense of the word. Mrs. Holdfast, who supplied
you with a Romance in Real Life fit for a novel instead of the columns
of a newspaper, would not, in such circumstances as these, have
withstood the temptation. But there are women and women."

"I grant you," said our Reporter, "that I was deceived in the character
of Mrs. Holdfast. Am I the first who has been beguiled by the soft
speeches of a fair woman? And, my dear sir, if you want novels and
romances, take my word for it, you cannot do better than go to the
columns of a newspaper for them. What has become of Mrs. Holdfast's
baby?"

"The child will be cared for," replied Mr. Goldberry, "by Frederick
Holdfast, and will be brought up in ignorance of her mother's crimes."

The proceedings at the inquest commenced languidly, but were soon
brightened by the extraordinary revelations made by the witnesses. The
bodies of the two persons burnt to death were identified, and then
evidence was given, in dramatic sequence, in proof that, at the time of
their death, the deceased were engaged in unlawful proceedings, and that
the male deceased had formed a deliberate plan for setting fire to the
house.

Mrs. Preedy, lodging-house keeper, deposed to the letting of a furnished
attic to a man who gave the name of Richard Manx, and who spoke like a
foreigner. The rent of this attic was three shillings a week, but she
had never seen the colour of Richard Manx's money; he "gave out," to her
that he was very poor; she had no doubt he was the man who was found
dead in the next house; neither had she any doubt that it was he who had
spread the report that her house was haunted, and that he did it to ruin
her. This witness rambled in her evidence, and caused great laughter by
her irrelevant replies to questions.

Mrs. Whittaker, lodging-house keeper in Buckingham Palace Road, deposed
to the letting of her first-floor to Mr. Pelham at a rental of three
guineas per week. He paid his rent regularly, and she believed him to be
a gentleman of considerable means. She recognised the body of the male
deceased as Mr. Pelham.

The principal detective employed by Mr. Frederick Holdfast testified
that the male body was that of Richard Manx, otherwise Pelham, a
notorious blackleg; that he had lodged at No. 118, Great Porter Square
as Richard Manx, and in Buckingham Palace Road as Mr. Pelham; that he
(the detective) was employed to watch the deceased on suspicion that he
was implicated in the murder of Mr. Holdfast, senior; that on the night
of the fire he saw a female enter 118, Great Porter Square, in the
company of the deceased; and that this female was Mrs. Holdfast, widow
of the gentleman who had been murdered some months ago.

A sensation was then caused by the appearance of Mr. Frederick Holdfast
as a witness. He recognised the bodies as those of Mr. Pelham and Mrs.
Holdfast, his father's second wife. Before his father contracted a
second marriage he had an acquaintance with the deceased persons in
Oxford. Mr. Pelham was a blackleg, and had been expelled from the
company of gentlemen for cheating with dice; and Mrs. Holdfast was a
woman not entitled to respect. The witness, in reply to questions put
by his lawyer, Mr. Goldberry, said he was the man who, under the name
of Antony Cowlrick, had been wrongfully charged at the Martin Street
Police-court with the murder of a gentleman, who, it was now known, was
his father; and that he had in his possession evidence in his father's
handwriting which proved, beyond the possibility of doubt, that his
father had been murdered by one or both of the deceased. The other
portions of this witness's evidence, relating to his taking possession
of the house No. 119 Great Porter Square, and to the watch he set upon
Mr. Pelham's movements, are fully detailed in our verbatim report of
the inquest, and will be found most startling and dramatic.

Even more dramatic was the evidence of the next witness, Blanche
Daffarn, Mr. Frederick Holdfast's _fiancée_, a young lady of great
personal attractions. For the purpose of clearing her lover from the
dreadful accusation brought against him, she had disguised herself as a
servant, and had taken service as a maid-of-all-work with Mrs. Preedy.
It was through her instrumentality that Pelham and Richard Manx were
discovered to be one and the same person, and had it not been for her
courage and devotion there is but little doubt that the guilty ones
would have escaped. She gave her evidence with clearness and modesty,
and she was frequently interrupted by murmurs of applause, which the
Coroner did not attempt to suppress.

It might have been supposed that the climax of interest was reached when
the fair witness, towards whom every face in the room was turned in
admiration, took her seat; but it was not; a higher point was attained
upon the appearance of a little girl, a mere child, whom our Reporter
at once recognised as Fanny, a match girl, with whom our readers have
already made acquaintance. The brightness, the vivacity, and the
adventures of this little waif in connection with the case, no less than
her sensibility and gratitude towards her guardian angel, Miss Blanche
Daffarn, produced a profound impression. It would be hard to say whether
tears or smiles predominated while this intelligent and grateful child
stood before the Coroner; both were freely produced by the wonderful
touches of nature which gleamed through little Fanny's narrative, which
she was allowed to relate almost without interruption from Coroner and
jury. It is pleasant to be able to state that Fanny's future is made
safe; Mr. Frederick Holdfast and his _fiancée_ are her protectors. The
child is rescued from the gin shop and the gutter.

The inquest was over, and still the persons in the crowded room lingered
for a parting glance at those who had played their parts in the strange
and varied drama. The interest in the proceedings had extended beyond
the Court, and a large concourse of persons had gathered outside, eager
to see the brave young lady and the child, whose names will be mentioned
in terms of admiration in every home in the kingdom. Such is the power
of the newspaper. To convey to remote distances, into village and city,
to the firesides of the poor and the rich, the records of ennobling
deeds, and to cause "God bless you little Fanny!" "May you live happy
lives, Frederick and Blanche!" to be breathed by the millions whose
hearts shall be stirred by this story of love and crime, of cunning
which over-reached itself and suffering which blossomed into sweetness,
the last scenes of which were enacted in a common lodging-house in Great
Porter Square.


_THE END._



Transcriber's note


Words in italics have been surrounded by _underscores_ and small
capitals have been changed to all capitals.

Punctuation errors have been corrected silently. Also the
following corrections have been made, on page

   iv "XLIV" changed to "XLVI" (XLVI.--In which the "Evening Moon"
      gives a sequel)
   12 "be" changed to "he" (in secret to kill the father he betrayed!)
   23 "the the" changed to "the" (raised the child's head)
   32 "sindirect" changed to "indirect" (in an indirect way)
   50 "were" changed to "where" (into the shop where people are served)
   84 "Mr." changed to "Mrs." (gave her to deliver to Mrs. Holdfast)
  165 "thoughful" changed to "thoughtful" (Kind, thoughtful husband)
  189 "a" changed to "as" (in as few words as possible)
  229 "in in" changed to "in" (what appears in our present issue).

Otherwise the original has been preserved, including inconsistent
spelling and hyphenation.





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